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Eiichi Yamamoto ) Kanashimi no Belladonna

Directed by Eiichi Yamamoto (Space Battleship Yamato) and written by Yoshiyuki Fukuda (who earlier penned the screenplay for Masahiro Shinoda’s Samurai Spy), this 1973 animated oddity is both breathtakingly beautiful and profoundly disturbing. Based on a 19th century treatise on the history of witchcraft, Kanashimi no Belladonna (literally ‘Belladonna of Sadness’) was the third and final film released in Osamu Tezuka’s Animerama series. While the first two (One Thousand and One Nights, Cleopatra) are notable in their own right, Kanashimi no Belladonna (the only of the three made without Tezuka’s direct oversight) is by far the most idiosyncratic.

For his third Animerama outing Yamamoto eschewed traditional animation techniques, instead relying on lush static images that recall Aubrey Beardsley and Virginia Frances Sterrett. It’s also more violent than the other two – rape is a central theme of the film, and the fact that Yamamoto stylizes the sexualized violence has the effect of magnifying the horror rather than blunting it.

Trigger warnings aside, Kanashimi no Belladonna is a fascinating – and little known – work.

Link: Kanashimi no Belladonna (Wikipedia Entry)

(Note: the first seven minutes or so of the linked video consists of trailers for the film. The actual movie doesn’t start until  00:07:09)

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4 responses to “Eiichi Yamamoto ) Kanashimi no Belladonna

  1. OK, that was something. You’re right about the trigger stuff. It is such a bizarre mix of things but reminds me of a lot of the style tics of other animation of the period. I’m glad I watched that. I have to say I’m struck by how much it style reminds me of Yoshitaka Amano. I wonder how much he was influenced by this (or at least influenced by the same sources this borrows from). There’s an Amano meets Klimt meets Ralph Bakshi vibe running through it. The (more) surreal sequence in the wilderness later on feels like Bosch meets Hokusai. Glad I watched it.

  2. Alex Mayo ⋅

    Good call on the Yoshitaka Amano stuff – I hadn’t considered that. And yeah, that whole bit in the woods is double-crazy on top of an already surreal film.

    I think the beauty of the visuals contrasted with the nastiness of the subject matter is fascinating.

  3. Also worth noting for anyone who goes to watch that- the subtitles are terrible. I think they almost manage to beat any of the second-tier wuxia fantasy films I’ve watched. They’re clearly fan-created, but they’re also incomprehensible in spots.

    • Alex Mayo ⋅

      Definitely. They’re special, that’s for sure. I have a version I grabbed off the intarwebz and they’re the same…I suspect this version was uploaded from that file. Then again, the film’s so pretty I don’t know that it detracted from my appreciation very much.

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