NSFW: Belladonna of Sadness Restoration Details

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Film Poster for the 1973 Original Release

Film Poster for the 1973 Original Release

Rolling Stone Magazine has reported today that the restoration of the influential, but almost impossible to find, adult animated film, Belladonna of Sadness, will soon be released. Eiichi Yamamoto’s lost masterpiece has been restored by the people at Cinelicious Pics and will have a limited theater engagement in Los Angeles on May 13th. Then, on July 12th, cinephiles such as myself will celebrate the ability to finally get their hands on this lost work when it is released on iTunes. Why would Rolling Stone pick up a story about an adult anime film and why should you be interested?

An illustration by Martin van Maele for the 1911 edition of La Sorcière.

An illustration by Martin van Maele for the 1911 edition of La Sorcière.

Called by Dennis Bartok, the VP of Cinelicious, “the first truly erotic animated film”, it was credited with bankrupting the film studio, and was so controversial that it has not seen the light of day since it’s 1973 festival premier. He has helped spearhead the efforts to restore this lost work of art and important part of film history. Erotic imagery has been used since animation in film first came into being, but this work was not meant for those backroom side shows. It was meant as a full length picture to be seen by a serious film audience, to be profound and to provoke. The Japanese subtitle of the film was La Sorcière, that French book from 1862 (seen above), was the primary influence for the film’s narrative. La Sorcière, by Jules Michelete, wrote about the history of witchcraft and paganism . While there were many inaccuracies, as you would expect from a book written in that time period regardless, one of the most notable aspects of that work was it’s sympathy towards the women themselves and it’s criticism of the Christianity practiced at the time. But, instead of merely taking the stance that the women were all innocent and shouldn’t have been persecuted in the first place, it took the bold stance (for it’s time) that even if they were witches, the churches had no right to persecute and kill them. While the word feminism did not even exist at the time (and certainly didn’t have the baggage associated with it that sometimes comes into play now days), this book later became associated with that movement in a positive manner, and many have linked it to the modern views of Wicca and paganism. This film takes those elements, and especially the female empowerment themes, and moves them to a Japanese setting. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but possibly the most famous witch trial of European history also makes a major appearance in the film.

René Laloux’s animated classic, Fantastic Planet.

René Laloux’s animated classic, also from 1973, Fantastic Planet.

In substance, the film plays out stylistically similar to the René Laloux’s animated classic, Fantastic Planet, crossed with the classic Japanese film, In the Realm of the Senses (Ai no corrida), by Nagisa Oshima. Or, as Rolling Stone stated, “Yellow Submarine meets your worst acid freakout.” But the very artistic animation style and that strange alt-jazz soundtrack also make this title a bit timeless, it will certainly get you into a strange head space. So this is all great news for fans of Adult animation as well as those who would like to see some of Japan’s more artistic productions make it over here to our shores. Mark your calendars for July 12th (unless you happen to live in Los Angeles), and prepare to get weird.

This is a Red Band (NSFW) trailer, so you have been warned.

Sources 12

About William Haderlie

Born in the 1970's, I've been an avid participant for much of video game history. A lifetime of being the sort of supergeek entrenched in the sciences and mathematics has not curbed my appreciation for the artistry of video games, cinema, and especially literature.