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splendid visuals, anticipating Miyazaki. Disney it ain't!
Loosely based on the nineteenth-century classic "The Witch" by historian Jules Michelet, "Belladonna" tells the story of a young "everywoman" in a brutally repressive and exploitative feudal society; in her powerlessness she is gradually driven to ancient superstitions and satanic practices, and then accused, tortured and executed for witchcraft. This storyline provides for a pageantry of sado-erotic scenes. "Belladonna" hovers uncomfortably on the edge of pornography but the film is saved, and viewer bewitched, by the incredible wealth of imaginative visual flourishes. Yamamoto's style in this medieval story hovers between classical Japanese landscape painting and twentieth-century underground comics (western style and manga), conjuring up, with accomplished technique, his dark fantasies. Think of Disney's Fantasia, but with more visual variation of style, and dedicated to the themes of lust and cruelty. "Belladonna" is a very early masterpiece of Japanese anime, anticipating Miyazaki by more than two decades.
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