Belladonna of Sadness

Please Note: This film is no longer showing at Railroad Square Cinema

One of the great lost masterpieces of Japanese animation, never before officially released in the U.S., and now newly restored using the original 35mm camera negative and sound elements—and including over 8 minutes of surreal and explicit footage cut from the negative.  Belladonna of Sadness is a mad, swirling, psychedelic light-show of medieval tarot-card imagery with horned demons, haunted forests and La Belle Dame Sans Merci, equal parts J.R.R. Tolkien and gorgeous, explicit Gustav Klimt-influenced eroticism. The last film in the adult-themed Animerama trilogy produced by the godfather of Japanese anime & manga, Osamu Tezuka, and directed by his long time collaborator Eiichi Yamamoto, Belladonna unfolds as a series of spectacular still watercolor paintings that bleed and twist together. An innocent young woman is violently raped by the local lord on her wedding night. To take revenge, she makes a pact with the Devil himself (voiced by Tatsuya Nakadai, from Akira Kurosawa’s RAN and some of the most wonderful Samurai movies ever made) who appears as an erotic sprite and transforms her into a black-robed vision of madness and desire. Extremely transgressive and not for the easily offended, Belladonna is fueled by a mindblowing Japanese psych rock soundtrack by noted avant-garde jazz composer Masahiko Satoh. On par with Rene Laloux’s Fantastic Planet and Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards as an LSD-stoked 1970s head trip, Belladonna marks a major rediscovery for animation fans. If Led Zeppelin had a favorite film, this would be it. In other words, Stairway to Hell. Unrated (but would be R or maybe even NC-17, or as it was termed at the time, X—NOT for kids!) In Japanese with English subtitles. 93 Min.