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Onibaba - Criterion Collection
Onibaba - Criterion Collection
Actors: Nobuko Otowa, Jitsuko Yoshimura, Kei Sat˘, Jűkichi Uno, Taiji Tonoyama
Director: Kaneto Shind˘
Genres: Indie & Art House, Horror
UR     2004     1hr 43min

Deep within the wind-swept marshes of war-torn medieval Japan, an impoverished mother and her daughter-in-law eke out a lonely, desperate existence. Forced to murder lost samurai and sell their belongings for grain, they ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Nobuko Otowa, Jitsuko Yoshimura, Kei Sat˘, Jűkichi Uno, Taiji Tonoyama
Director: Kaneto Shind˘
Creators: Kiyomi Kuroda, Kaneto Shind˘, Toshio Enoki, Hisao Itoya, Kazuo Kuwahara, Setsuo Noto, Tamotsu Minato
Genres: Indie & Art House, Horror
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Horror
Studio: Criterion
Format: DVD - Black and White,Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 03/16/2004
Original Release Date: 02/04/1965
Theatrical Release Date: 02/04/1965
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 43min
Screens: Black and White,Color,Widescreen,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 29
Edition: Criterion Collection
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: Japanese
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

Corpse-dealers and deserters and devil's faces
Zack Davisson | Seattle, WA, USA | 10/20/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"The Noh mask in and of itself is a frightening thing. Featureless and unmoving, it is designed to change expressions when the wearer turns their head a certain way, and captures shifting shadows and light. Filmed in color, it would not have nearly the same impact as the devil's face that leers at us in "Onibaba." Director Kaneto Shindo has utilized the full power of this ancient Japanese artifact, using its supernatural powers to show us the true face of a very human evil.

The story is of the flotsam and jetsam of war, the left-over non-combatants who must still live by whatever means they can while commerce and industry is devastated and all able-bodied men are soldiers. In this harsh environment an old woman and her daughter-in-law become carrion crows, murdering lone samurai who have escaped wounded from a battle, then selling their arms and armor to a dealer who then sells it back to the armies, to strap around more corpses-to-be and eventually be recycled into more profits for the women.

Into this self-sustaining cycle comes Hachi, a friend of the old woman's son and young woman's husband, who claims that the son/husband is dead and he intends to leave behind the fighting and settle near the two women. The young woman is still young, and lusts for the life and vitality she senses in Hachi. The old woman, fearing abandonment and starvation, plays on the superstitious fears of the young woman, haunting her with a stolen Noh mask of a devil's face.

The transformation from the death-cycle of the old and young woman, to the living passion of Hachi is a powerful transition in "Onibaba." The raw, naked sexuality between Hachi and the young woman (who is never given a name) is unexpected in a black and white film, and thus all the more powerful. The impotent, cool rage of the old woman, who would seek to stifle that fire and merely sustain existence as it was until she dies is terrifying in its selfishness. She would pull all such things into the deep, dark hole where she flings the corpses of the samurai she murders. Hmmm...a deep, dark hole that is the end of men's lives...there must be a metaphor there somewhere.

"Onibaba" is a triumph of taking the masks of society away from human beings, and seeing them bare and naked in their primal state, surviving as they can under dire circumstances. Some choose life, some choose death."
wdanthemanw | Geneva, Switzerland | 03/19/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I remember having seen Kaneto Shindô's ONIBABA in a little arty movies theater when I was about 15 years old. I've never forgotten its atmosphere even if this event happened some 30 years ago. I was really haunted by this sex story that took place in a swampy prairie of the medieval Japan.Onibaba's characters are lost in the middle of a field covered with uncut grass and wheat. We have to dive into this scenery that is the fourth main character of the film if we want to discover this tragic and fantastic tale of love and jealousy. An impressing number of scenes are already part of Movie History and will stay for a long time in your memory : the love scenes between the young woman and Hachi, all the scenes involving the mask of the stray samurai and also the first murder committed by the women if I may select chosen moments of this masterpiece.As always, the copy presented by Criterion is nearly perfect. Bonus features include a recent interview with the director Kaneto Shindô who's well over 90 now and a home movie shot by Kei Sato during the shooting. Frankly, I can't see now what can prevent you from enjoying this unforgettable film."
Oh man, this is a scary movie!
simpcity | 05/04/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"OK, it probably helped that I saw this film in a college dining hall when it first came out, and not comfortably ensconced on my couch with a PAUSE button. But you still won't catch me running through tall grass in the dark!

As more than one reviewer has noted, the swamp grass is one of the main characters of this film. What an accomplishment!

I would rank this with Throne of Blood as great Japanese film. The acting is superb. The story is gripping. The musical accompaniment is intense and cosmopolitan. Not a month has gone buy over the last 30 years that I haven't been scared of this film."
The Sensuousness of Shindo
Shaun Anderson | Nottingham/Hereford, England, UK | 08/29/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The deconstrunction and demystification of the samurai myth had been a project Akira Kurosawa had taken upon himself and that had seemingly reached a conclusion in YOJIMBO (1962), but Shindo's ONIBABA (1964) takes it a step further by presenting them as bedraggled and exhausted, hungry and at the mercy of two seemingly innocuous women. Shindo's world is hot and sultry, the characters weak and vulnerable. This is a very good depiction of the affects of war on the fringes of society and the lengths certain parties must go to in order to survive. As well as exploring this theme Shindo also adds several intriguing layers, sexuality and jealousy make a potent combination, as does the inserion of old Japanese folk tales. The result is a film that shows the eroticism of human beings in their most natural and stripped down state. Be hypnotised by the swaying grass fields and the sumptious black and white cinematography in this Japanese gem. Criterion's disc is very good.