Belladonna of Sadness is a psychedelic erotic epic. It is the tragedy of the maiden Jeanne who, after marrying the peasant Jean, is brutally deflowered by the local lord. Deep in despair, Jeanne is visited by the devil, who awakens her sexuality for her power and revenge. Needless to say, the emphasis on Jeanne’s body is ripe with controversy. At times displayed for the male gaze, ultimately, her sexuality becomes her weapon.
The feature’s aesthetics are a mix of art nouveau and 60’s psychedelia, painted in lush watercolors, oil, and line drawings; it shows numerous abstract designs that morph from naturalistic to symbolic forms. Many of these images are still, and the camera pans through them or dissolve into others; moreover, the stills only highlight the animation. Fluids, smoke, the embrace of multiple bodies, all these coordinate for the same narrative effect.
Belladonna of Sadness was the swansong of Studio Mushi, Ozamu Tezuka’s founding house of anime. Renown for Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion, and other series, in the late 60’s Mushi produced a trilogy of adult features titled Animerama. These included A Thousand and One Nights (1969), Cleopatra (1970), and Belladonna all co-directed or directed by Eiichi Yamamoto. Yamamoto would retake Belladonna’s type of erotic narrative and aesthetics in 1991, with his script for Yukio Abe’s original video animation: The Sensualist.
Belladonna’s recent re-master by Cinelicious Pics, retakes much of the original coloring and includes many sequences missing from the original. A lost gem of mature Japanese animation.
Check the trailer at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9LUA3NgQN0&authuser=1
With information from:
“Inside the Restoration of Lost ‘70s Animated Curiosity ‘Belladonna of Sadness.’” By KcIfeanyi. 09 May, 2016. FastcoCreate. http://www.fastcocreate.com/3059605/inside-the-restoration-of-lost-70s-animated-curiosity-belladonna-of-sadness
“The Sensualist” (review). Anipages. http://www.pelleas.net/aniTOP/index.php/the_sensualist