Tuesday, January 31, 2017

yo gabba baba!

Someone once asked if I ever watch any good movies.

The answer is yes.

Tho' I rarely review them as it's really difficult to take the piss.

Case in point.....

Onibaba (鬼婆, 1964).
Dir: Kaneto Shindo.
Cast: Nobuko Otowa, Jitsuko Yoshimura, Kei Satō, Taiji Tonoyama and
Jūkichi Uno.

I'm not a demon! I'm a human being!

The place: Japan, the time: round about the Battle of Minatogawa during the Nanboku-chō period - and probably around lunchtime on a Wednesday by the look of it.

And yes I can tell that just by the height of the reeds and the angle of the sun I'm that good.

Anyway rushing thru' the aforementioned reeds are two wounded warriors fleeing from a group of soldiers on horseback in a scene so well staged that Franklin J. Schaffner would steal it wholesale from Planet Of The Apes four years later.

Hiding in the big bushes till their hunters have passed our unlucky twosome are fairly surprised when out of nowhere - well out from behind some tall grass but you know what I mean - two women spear the pair to death and stealing their armour and weapons before dropping the bodies in a nearby hole.

Which is nice.

The women - fright-browed Brenda (movie star cum mistress to the director Otowa) and her boyish and bouncy daughter-in-law Betty (Pigs and Battleships and Dodes'ka-den star Yoshimura) return to their tiny, ramshackle hut and settle down for the evening.

Well cold blooded killing does take it out of you.

The next morn the pair take their ill-gotten booty to the local tomb-toothed merchant Jeff Ushi (Tonoyama star of almost every Japanese film made between 1939 and 1989 including the fantastic Katsushika Hokusai biopic Hokusai Manga) to trade for food.

Tho' not soap or washing powder judging by the black rings round their necks.

Seriously you can smell the stale sweat, egg and yeast thru' the screen.

Offering them a measly two bags of rice for the lot the pair begrudgingly accept, complaining as they pack their bags about his lack of compassion and general greediness.

Ushi agrees that he's maybe been a wee bit tight so offers an extra bag if he's allowed to touch Brenda's thighs.

Unimpressed she angrily storms off in a huff.

Which is a shame because they're quite breath-taking for an old girl.

Heading home the mismatched maidens pass the time by discussing the war raging around them, it seems that Brenda's son Tony left to fight years back so the pair have been looking out for each other ever since.

But all that is about to change with the return of their next door neighbour - the local wide-boy and best pal of her son, Brian Hachi (Satō, star of Kuroneko and Seven Samurai) who after scoffing most of their supper informs Brenda that her son is dead.

But the food isn't the only thing he has his - milky- eye on for it seems he has a soft (oh go on then semi-soft and getting harder) spot for Betty.

And it appears that she may feel the same.


One day as the ladies are washing their pants in the stream as Brian lazily catches fish a pair of angry samurai (are there any other kind?) ride by having a massive fight.

In any other movie this would be unusual but not here.

Oh no.

Leaping from their horses and into the water the pair continue fighting, oblivious to the trio watching them from the river's edge.

As one of the shouty samurai approaches them for help, Hachi drops his fishing rod and violently stabs him with his spear whilst the ladies drown his adversary, taking the still wet armour to sell to stinky Jeff.

Whilst Brenda is away cutting a deal tho' horny Hachi finally seduces Betty and from then on the young woman sneaks from her hut every night to indulge in 'the  sex' with him.

Lucky sod.

It's not long before Brenda learns of their relationship and begins to formulate a plan to keep Betty for herself.

Unfortunately the plan involves standing astride him as he's trying to sunbathe and licking her lips whilst gyrating wildly to One Direction which has the effect of Hachi telling her in no uncertain terms to "性交する".
Despondent, depressed and feeling tres dowdy Brenda heads home alone.

That  night, while Hachi and Betty are together, a lost samurai (Tora-san's Sunrise and Sunset's Uno) in a terrifying Hannya mask appears at Brenda's window, threatening to kill the woman if she refuses to guide him safely thru the reeds.

Walking at swordpoint (well it's the nearest she's gonna get to having a guy stick something in her) thru' the swaying reeds Brenda becomes bored with the samurai's constant chat and tales of how handsome, daring and bold he is so in a fit of pique tricks him into falling into the pit where her and Betty dispose of their victims.

Climbing down herself she steals his armour and possessions before attempting to remove his mask.

Tugging and pulling away (well she is very lonely) it finally comes free revealing the fallen samurai's hideous scarred visage.

Returning home with her spoils Brenda sits alone gazing at the mask and suddenly realizes it may come in useful if she wishes to 'save' Bettie from Hachi's lustful embrace.....


No idea what to say about Onibaba that hasn't been said a thousand times before and by folk who can actually write but fuck it I'll do my best.

One of the greatest - and most influential - movies of all time, Kaneto Shindo's Onibaba is a beautifully shot, starkly realized waking nightmare of a movie that's as darkly disturbing as it is icily erotic.

Based on a Shin Buddhist parable the director heard as a child, Shindo transforms the tale from one of Brothers Grimm-style child-based cannibalism into a darkly disturbing story of sex, death and random acts of violence that spiral uncontrollably to a climax laced with supernatural tendencies and a foreboding, ever more suffocating sense of paranoia.

Cast to perfection and with cinematography to die for from the genius of longtime Shindo collaborator Kiyomi Kuroda, Onibaba is one of those rare films that transcends mere cinema to become a work of art.

A wee bit like Zombie Lake obviously.

Onibaba's richly ravishing darkness can be seen in everything from Nagisa Oshima's In The Realm Of The Senses to Takashi Miike's Audition via the aforementioned Planet of The Apes, Hideo Nakata's Ringu, David Lynch's Blue Velvet and even The Force Awakens (Rey's occupation on Jakku, her 'awakening' - as a Force user as opposed to sexually when confronting Kylo Ren in his 'demon' mask for example) amongst others, cementing it's place as quite possibly the greatest - and sexiest - psychological horror not just to come out of Japan but probably of all time.

Utter unadulterated genius.

Oh yeah and Nobuko Otowa gives probably the most scarily sexual eyebrow based performance ever captured on celluloid.

Just saying.

Don't worry I'll be back to watching shite before you know it.

No comments: