Onibaba

Onibaba (aka The Demoness)

(Kaneto Shindo, 1963)

Rating: 5/5

Reviewed by Dave Lancaster

Summary
: A masterpiece of sexual tension and violent frustration, Japanese master Kaneto Shindo's 1963 masterpiece 'Onibaba' is essential on Blu-ray.




Set in a remote part of Japan ravaged by war, but miles away from the frontlines of the rivaling shogunates, Kaneto Shindo's 'Onibaba' may be small in scale but it is just as brutal as any conflict imaginable. It takes your breath away right from the start and never lets up.

A violent mother and daughter-in-law duo use their familiarity of their local seven-foot high susuki grass fields to ambush helpless samurai soldiers and strip them of their armour and weapons to sell on for food after they dispose of the bodies down a devastatingly deep pit.  



When a returning warrior comes home and informs them that their son/husband is dead, a destructive tale of loss unfolds as the mother simmers with anger and the daughter-in-law/widow aches with sexual longing for this messenger.

Scenes of the man and young woman running feverishly through the dizzying grass in carnal desire are unforgettable. Indeed, the whole film grabs you with its explicit sex and violence that feels well ahead of its half century age.



If you didn't discover this masterpiece on Eureka's previous DVD, this pin sharp Blu-ray is the way forward. Extraswise, The Masters of Cinema have done it again with another fine selection of worthy bonus materials:

  • Full-length audio commentary by director Kaneto Shindô and the stars of the film, Kei Satô and Jitsuko Yoshimura
  • Video introduction by Alex Cox
  • 46 minutes of 8mm footage shot on location by lead actor Kei Satô
  • Optional English subtitles
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • 36 page Booklet containing an essay by Doug Cummings, a 2004 statement from writer/director Kaneto Shindô about why he made Onibaba, an English translation of the original short Buddhist fable that inspired the film, a 1972 interview with Shindô conducted by Joan Mellen and rare imagery.

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