Inspired by a Japanese legend comes Kuroneko, a supernatural tragic romance set during the Heian period in which the vengeful ghosts of a peasant woman (Nobuko Otowa) and her daughter-in-law (Kiwako Taichi) lure samurai to their death in a haunted bamboo grove. When news of the attacks reaches Kyoto, a fearless warrior, Gintoki (Kichiemon Nakamura), is sent out to investigate. But he is shocked to discover the wayward spirits belong to his mother and beloved wife…
This monochrome Japanese spookfest from director Kaneto Shindô, who died last year at the age of 100, is an atmospheric meditation on sex and class and was released to great acclaim in 1968. It was also Shindo’s second attempt at horror, the first being Onibaba in 1964.
Taking its cue from kabuki plays and kyōgen musical drama, Kuroneko is a very theatrical-looking piece of cinema. The minimalist design, comprising a traditional washitsu room inside a spectral farmhouse, framed within Kiyomi Kuroda’s stark chiaroscuro lighting, and the graceful Odori-inspired movements of Otowa and Taichi’s fleet-footed spirits gliding about to Hikaru Hayashi’s sparse, but vibrant soundtrack are masterfully combined to bring Shindô’s sensual take on an old folk tale to life. Kuroneko’s hauntingly elegant to watch and, along Onibaba, a seminal work in Japanese horror.
The Masters of Cinema Series special Blu-ray elease features a newly-restored 1080p transfer in its original 2.35:1 original aspect ratio, optional English subtitles with new translation, theatrical trailer and collector’s booklet.
In Japanese with English subtitles.
Also out this week from Masters of Cinema is Kaneto Shindô’s wordless 1960 political realist film, The Naked Island. For more information on this and Shindô’s Kuroneko, check out the official website (click here).