Criterion Channel is running a series of arthouse animation for adults. I’m checking out some of it. I’m by no means an expert on animation, but some of this is pretty interesting.
Belladonna of Sadness, the 1973 film by Eiichi Yamamoto is a trip. It’s basically a psychedelic film about a sorta kinda Joan of Arc figure (Jeanne, naturally) who is raped on her wedding night by the lord and then slowly dedicates her life to a phallic-shaped Satan who has promised her revenge. But her revenge is bringing joy and sex to the world, not to mention curing the Bubonic Plague. No, it doesn’t make much sense when you watch it or when I describe it. But the animation is wild and incredibly creative. At some point, the film kinda runs out of ideas, but it remains fascinating. This film is extremely NSFW. Yamamoto really likes his phallic images and his vagina images. And the rape scene is definitely not going to be for everyone. But while the idea of sex as empowerment is a bit trite at this point, it wasn’t in 1973. Becuase of this though, some reviewers found it distasteful when it was re-released in the U.S. a few years ago. I would not call it distasteful. I would call it fascinating.
Here’s the trailer:
The whole thing is available to watch on YouTube, but is age restricted and can’t be embedded. Fair enough.