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DEMON POND

Japan, 1979 (MIFF 1981)

Director: Masahiro Shinoda

A stranger appears in a drought stricken area His appearance is greeted with mysterious suspicion. He arrives deep in the mountains and encounters a beautiful woman He notices that the river flows and she explains that its source is the Demon Pond. Eventually he discovers that the woman's husband is a former friend who disappeared years earlier. At length he is taken to the Demon Pond and as night descends, the film shifts it mood: goblins assemble, a catfish appears with a crab - a new world within the Demon Pond materializes, led by Princess Shirayuki, the incarnation of the Dragon God. This strange and exotic film, a reprise of the classic Japanese tales of ghostly wonder, involved a big budget and top stars. A Japanese paper described it as "probably the first time in Japanese film history for the world of legends to be taken up with such seriousness. It is a revolt against the logic of science fiction. In any case, it departs from mundane affairs and provides dreamy entertainment. It is a courageous project and director Masahiro Shinoda opened up an entirely new page.”

This is also a story accessible to western audiences, following a straightforward narrative line and making clear its moments of fantasy. Although it has had only infrequent exposure so far, some notice has already been accorded the film. “it's an eerily wonderful work in the genre of Miziguchi's Ugestsu and Kobayashi's Kwaidan, returning to the stylized conventions of the supernatural tale...”

Rob Baker Soho Weekly News

One note that might escape western viewers: both female parts are played by the extraordinary Kabuki actor, Tamasaburo Bando, foremost of today's onnagata, actors who specialize in female roles.

See also...

HIMIKO

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GONZA THE SPEARMAN

Shinoda's second adaptation of an 18th century puppet play by Chikamatsu is very different from the earlier DOUBLE SUICIDE (1969) — more realistic, less flamboyant, less experimental in that ... More »

DOUBLE SUICIDE

Masahiro Shinoda made his first film in 1960, and was immediately hailed as one of the Japanese New Wave. Since then he has made fourteen films, the most recent of which is Double Suicide, which ... More »

VENGEANCE IS MINE

He kills, laughing. That's the kind he is. Often touted as a Japanese In Cold Blood, Vengeance is Mine sees Shohei Imamura energetically depict a true-life murderer who kept evading a police dragnet ... More »

A 19-YEAR-OLD'S PLAN

It is most unusual for a Japanese director to be "discovered" from his first feature film. In general it seems that a director attracts attention only after several films, and henceforth sends the ... More »

STRANGULATION

Kaneto Shindo has been represented at previous Melbourne Film Festivals by such diverse works as The Island and Kuroneko and his latest film again veers off into a new area, the high-powered domestic ... More »

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