Matsumoto's Downward Spiral into Madness and Despair
Japanese Title: SHURA [Bloodshed]
also known as DEMONS and PANDEMONIUM
starring: Kazuo Nakamura · Yasuko Sanjo · Juro Kara · Masao Imafuku
PROCESSION OF ROSES is a hard act to follow. It's generally
considered one of the best counterculture films ever made. And it was
the filmmaker's debut in 1969! Methodical director Toshio Matsumoto
took three years to complete this - his second - film, a controversial
cult movie, years ahead of its time.
is a project based on one of the least popular Kabuki plays written
by Nanboku Tsuruya [GHOST
STORY OF YOTSUYA]. It tells the story
of a samurai forced to accept a life of violence when he vows to take
vengeance against a geisha who stole from him. Gengobei finds
himself "doomed to walk the path of demons, a downward spiral into
madness and despair." This movie is as bleak and hopeless as any
jidaigeki ever made. Many critics compare it to SWORD
OF DOOM. But there's a big difference. In that film, Tsuke starts
on the Great Buddha Mountain and slowly cuts his way into his own private
hell [essentially, the last 20 minutes of the film]; whereas, here,
Gengobei starts in hell and plunges even deeper into the dark abyss.
Matsumoto takes the source material at face value; he does not attempt
to homogenize it for the motion picture market. Rather, he vividly reconstructs
the atrocities suggested in the original play. Matsumoto uses stop-motion
animation, innovative cinematography, and some highly creative editing
techniques resulting in a motion picture that manages to look as fresh
and new today as it did in 1971. However, the conclusion which depicts
the killing of an infant is excessive even by Japan's liberal standards.
The movie was officially banned in the UK and Australia.