Belladonna of Sadness and the magical phallus

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      Featuring Tatsuya Nakadai. In Japanese, with English subtitles. Rating unavailable

      Get your weird on with Belladonna of Sadness, a meticulously restored edition of an analogue treasure from 1973—one that has only ever travelled here by infamous reputation.

      This eclectic foray into violently erotic objectification may have been a desperate attempt to cash in on the era’s porn boom. The results, drawing on the line-heavy art-nouveau style of Aubrey Beardsley, by way of Andy Warhol, fall into the category of indescribable wonders.

      Director Yoshiyuki Fukuda literally drew on a Dark Ages fable from Jules Michelet, the French historian who coined the term Renaissance. But there’s not much enlightenment available to medieval peasants Jean and Jeanne. On their wedding night, Jeanne is raped by the local lord, throwing her new husband into a permanent funk.

      When the wounded bride tries to summon help, it arrives in the form of a phallus. “You’re so small,” she says to the devil, voiced by Ran’s Tatsuya Nakadai. No matter. A few strokes and he gets much bigger.

      Who knows what the filmmakers are saying about Jeanne’s deal with this hot Mephistopheles, which gives her witchlike powers and shuddering orgasms. The fact that she wanders voluptuously naked with her Medusa-like hair flying for most of the movie’s 90 minutes is sold as a kind of empowerment. The oddest thing about the movie, though, isn’t its faux feminism but the fact that the first third—with the camera mostly panning across static illustrations—is pretty boring. But as Jeanne’s libido heats up, so does the animation, becoming ever more fluid and, some might even say, sticky.

      Belladonna of Sadness, Official Red Band Trailer