(If you weren’t in South Africa in the early 1980s, you won’t get that reference. The ad is not on Youtube. I hunted.)
In this poetic and atmospheric horror fable, set in a village in war-torn medieval Japan, a malevolent spirit has been ripping out the throats of itinerant samurai. When a military hero is sent to dispatch the unseen force, he finds that he must struggle with his own personal demons as well. From Kaneto Shindo, director of the terror classic Onibaba, Kuroneko (Black Cat) is a spectacularly eerie twilight tale with a shocking feminist angle, evoked through ghostly special effects and mindblowingly awesome visuals.
Maitland McDonagh on Kuroneko: The Mark of the Cat
Scratch the surface of a contemporary J-horror classic like Ringu (1998) or any of the Ju-on films (2000–03) and you’ll glimpse Yabu no naka no kuroneko (Black Cat from the Grove), released in the U.S. as simply Kuroneko (1968). Shot in shimmering, widescreen black and white and suffused with an unsettling eroticism, Kaneto Shindo’s elegant nightmare of earthbound violence and otherworldly revenge wasn’t the first film to be rooted in Japanese folk stories about onryo, the vengeful spirits of those who were abused in life, usually women, whose rage is so great it can’t be contained.
The Ghost of Yotsuya (Nobuo Nakagawa, 1959) and Kwaidan (Masaki Kobayashi, 1965) both preceded it, and other classics of Japan’s golden age of filmmaking—notably Kenji Mizoguchi’s Ugetsu (1953)—featured female spirits. And supernatural cats had appeared in Black Cat Mansion (Nakagawa, 1958) and The Ghost Cat of Otama Pond (Yoshihiro Ishikawa, 1960). But Shindo drew those threads together and wove them into Kuroneko’s unprecedentedly unnerving women, whose descendents are now many, and into a terrifically spooky story whose resonance extends beyond the satisfying chill of an exotic campfire tale and whose wrenching psychological anguish transcends specific cultural traditions…
… Western folklore regularly puts cats in general, and black cats in particular, in league with witches and other dark forces, but Japanese folktales are more ambiguous, starting with the fact that, while all felines are suspected of being more than handy mousers and cute house pets, they allow for two kinds of supernatural cats, the manekineko and the bakeneko. Anyone who has eaten in a Japanese restaurant knows what a manekineko looks like: perched somewhere near the cash register, it sits with one paw raised in greeting and the other resting on a coin, benevolently beckoning good fortune to come on in and stay awhile—Hello, Hello Kitty! Thebakeneko, by contrast, is kissing cousin to the shape-shifting fox (kitsune) and the sly, mischievous tanuki (a small, scruffily kawaii canid native to East Asia): none are inherently evil, but all are capable of using their supernatural knack for mimicking other creatures—including human beings—to stir up trouble. That said, the fact that bakeneko often eat the person whose form they’ve taken suggests they’re less amusing and more alarming than their fellow shapeshifters, and the shadow of feline malevolence lurks in Kuroneko’s fog-swirled gloom.
Read more of Maitland McDonagh’s article, which discusses the historical context of this horror masterpiece, HERE.
Powerful street art by Faith47…
“miners are waiting for justice. workers are waiting for a living wage.
people are waiting for service delivery. refugees are waiting for assistance.
men are waiting for jobs. we are all waiting for an honest politician.
to do things for them. to take the fall. to build the country. to admit defeat.
there has been so much waiting in this country that much time has been lost…”it is the first instalment of my solo exhibition, fragments of a burnt history, which will soon unfold at the david krut gallery in johannesburg on november the 8th 2012.”
This just in from English PEN:
We are delighted to announce the publication of CATECHISM: POEMS FOR PUSSY RIOT, edited by Mark Burnhope, Sarah Crewe & Sophie Mayer.
There will be ePUB, Kindle and PDF versions available on this page from 00:01hrs on Monday 1st October 2012.
The book is distributed on the ‘Pay What You Think It’s Worth’ model popularised by Radiohead and others. We recommend £5, but any amount is welcome. All revenue will go to the Pussy Riot Legal fund, and the English PEN Writers at Risk Programme.
Get it HERE!
FLEURMACH EDITOR’S NOTE: The e-book will contain a poem by Fleurmach contributor Michelle McGrane (Peony Moon).
So much has been said about the girls over the years. But we have never found an answer. It didn’t matter in the end how old they had been, or that they were girls… but only that we had loved them, and that they hadn’t heard us calling… still do not hear us, up here in the tree house with our thinning hair and soft bellies, calling them from out of those rooms where they went to be alone for all time… and where we will never find the pieces to put them back together…
From Cecilia Lisbon’s diary:
Lux lost it over Kevin Haines, the garbage man. She’d wake up at five in the morning
and hang out on the front steps – like it wasn’t completely obvious.
The trees like lungs filling with air.
My sister, the mean one, pulling my hair.
And so we started to learn about their lives, coming to hold collective memories of times we hadn’t experienced.
We knew the girls were really women in disguise… that they understood love and even death… and that our job was merely to create the noise that seemed to fascinate them.
Screenplay based on the novel by Jeffrey Eugenides.