“It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell.” –General Tecumseh Sherman
And it was Francois Truffaut who supposedly said that it’s impossible to make an anti-war movie, because depictions of war are bound to make it look glamorous and exciting. Click here for a list of movies that prove him wrong.
The Japanese have a long history of ghost and spirit folklore, and in this movie, director Kaneto Shindo has combined elements of several stories with his own social criticism to create one of the most romantic and haunting ghost stories ever.
Set during the medieval civil wars of Japan, the movie begins with a group of samurai soldiers coming out of the bamboo groves to descend upon the home of Yone (Nobuka Otowa) and her daughter-in-law Shige (Kiwako Taichi) who are home alone because Yone’s son Hachi (Kichiemon Nakamura) has been conscripted into military service. The samurai brutally rape and kill the two women and burn their house to the ground, but the next morning, the women’s bodies are still there, and they are visited by a black cat who licks their wounds.
Three years later, samurai warriors are disappearing from the Rashomon Gate, seduced by a beautiful young woman who lures them into her home, introduces them to her mother, serves them sake, and then rips open their throats with her teeth.
No one among the samurai is brave enough to hunt down this killer, but then along comes Hachi, the sole survivor of a ferocious battle in another part of the country, and he is promoted to samurai and put in charge of evicting the evil spirits from the grove that was once his home.
Whether he recognizes his wife and his mother, indeed, whether they really are his wife and his mother, I leave for you to determine. All I can tell you is that the images from this film–the ghostly glow of these spirits and the creeping mist in the bamboo groves–will haunt you long after the movie is over.
For the Criterion essay by Maitland McDonagh, click here. For a list of other recommended Halloween movies, click here.
Since we’ve been displaying Videoport’s generous donation of dvds, specifically The Criterion Collection, we’ve had a lot of questions about what the Criterion Collection is, and why it contains so many foreign films.
The purpose of the Criterion Collection is to select the best of international cinema and publish these movies in the highest quality edition possible. Then they add extras that illuminate the film making process, such as “making of” documentaries, interviews with directors, cast, and crew, etc. Sometimes there’s a discussion with the composer who wrote the score; sometimes there’s footage of the film’s reception at a film festival.
In any event, whether you are a passionate cinemaphile or just a casually interested viewer, the Criterion Collection can teach you a lot about the art of film. If you’ve ever longed to throw around phrases like “French New Wave,” or “Italian neorealism,” the Criterion Collection can help.