Features and Columns · Movies

Belladonna of Sadness Is a Lost Classic Worth Rediscovering

By  · Published on July 11th, 2016

This Week in Home Video

Belladonna of Sadness Brings Tragic Beauty and a Call for Sacrifice to Home Video

Pick of the Week

Belladonna of Sadness

What is it? Jeanne and Jean are a young couple in love, but after their fairy tale wedding the pair are brought before the local lord to make an offering. He forces himself on her instead before sharing her with his court, and when even her new husband turns his back on her she finds pained, messy comfort with a devil-sent imp who offers to help in exchange for her soul.

Why buy it? Eiichi Yamamoto’s early ’70s slice of psychedelia, erotica, and still-relevant commentary is a beautifully disturbing descent into our shared history of sexual violence, oppression, and the abuse of authority. If it sounds heavy, well, it is ‐ it’s also extremely graphic with watercolor frames and hand-drawn animation that capture the atrocities with gorgeously imaginative imagery. It can be a tough watch as Jeanne’s suffering is intense, but its message of strength and sacrifice told with an enveloping beauty is worth the cringing. The score is just as stunning with both lyrics and melodies that lend an ethereal quality to the mad beauty. Cinelicious Pics brings the film to Blu-ray with a new 4k restoration.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews]

Belladonna Of Sadness (Blu-ray)

The Best

13 Cameras

What is it? A young couple expecting their first child moves into a new rental house, but their landlord isn’t exactly bound my ethical standards. He’s had cameras installed throughout the home and watches them live their lives, but it’s not long before simple voyeurism isn’t enough to satisfy him.

Why buy it? Writer/director Victor Zarcoff’s debut is a terrifically creepy little thriller highlighted by a wonderfully unsettling and sleazy lead performance by Neville Archambault as the landlord. You feel unnerved just watching him, and his appearance and mannerisms magnify the general unease of the film. The film is a straightforward thriller about something inherently creepy, and aside from a few moments of character stupidity the events play out with a realistic and natural vibe that will have you checking the nooks and crannies of your own home for tiny cameras and semen-covered madmen.

[DVD extras: Featurettes]

13 Cameras

Green Room

What is it? The Ain’t Rights are a young punk band wrapping up their latest miserable tour experience with a last-minute gig in rural Oregon. The club has a neo-Nazi vibe to it, but the money is good so they do they show mostly without incident and prepare to head home. Their exit is halted though when they witness something they shouldn’t have, and they quickly find themselves detained in the club’s green room. As the minutes tick by it becomes clear that the police aren’t coming, the club owner has no intention of letting them leave, and this may very well be the band’s farewell tour.

Why buy it? Jeremy Saulnier follows up his brilliant, methodically-paced revenge thriller Blue Ruin with an equally terrific but far more energetic siege film. It’s a vicious, grisly, suspenseful roller-coaster ride with a razor-sharp safety bar, and you are going to get cut. As dark and violent as it is though it’s also a thrilling crowd-pleaser guaranteed to leave you spent, exhilarated, and ready to watch it again. And if nothing else, it finally gives us a reason to distrust neo-Nazis.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurette, commentary]

Green Room [Blu-ray + Digital HD]

Mountains May Depart

What is it? Tao (Zhao Tao) is a young woman in 1999 torn between two men, Jinsheng and Liangzi. The former is a man riding the rise of China’s newfound capitalistic leanings, while the latter is far more grounded. Fifteen years later she’s regretting the choice she made between them. Eleven years after that her son faces his own struggles as a Chinese youth with no connection to his family, culture, or country.

Why rent it? Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin is a brilliant and exciting look inward towards his homeland, and he follows that up with another dissection of modern-day China with this decades-spanning tale. Zhao Tao shines as a good woman who wants the same things as everyone else, but her happiness and contentment are challenged by the price of those achievements. The third act suffers from her absence, but she returns in the final minutes to help the film deliver one of the best endings of the year.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interview]

Mountains May Depart [Blu-ray]

No Men Beyond this Point

What is it? Something strange began happening in 1953 ‐ women began becoming pregnant without biological contributions or involvement from men, and the all of the babies subsequently born were female. This documentary picks up six decades later and explores the history of the event, the present day reality, and what it all means for the future.

Why rent it? This mockumentary makes the rounds of various talking heads commenting on the changes triggered by this imagined event and the pros and cons of a world where men are quickly going extinct. One of the film’s focuses is Andrew, the world’s youngest man at 37 years old, and it’s through him that some of the sharpest commentary comes to life. There are cheap jokes here and there with digs at both men and women, but most of what’s here is smart and entertaining satire.

[DVD extras: None]

No Men Beyond This Point

The Rest

Allegiant: The Divergent Series

What is it? Famed multi-tasker Tris (Shailene Woodley) and her main squeeze Four have successfully led a small rebellion out of the city and into the barren landscape. They discover a warm welcome and answers to their questions, but they also find a new threat.

Why skip it? This is easily the worst post-apocalyptic YA franchise going with characters, world-building, and a narrative that just utterly fail to engage or entertain. The core premise remains inane, the characters dull, and the story just keeps repeating itself. The logic of events ‐ both what led them all here as well as what their present situation entails ‐ is mind-numbing in its silly and boring details. Skip it and watch The Scorch Trials instead.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, commentary]

Colony: Season One

What is it? An alien invasion has left the population secured and controlled in walled cities. The humans are forced to live by the oppressors’ rules, but while some collaborate with their new overlords others work in secret as resistance fighters.

Why rent it? The similarities to NBC’s V are numerous, and that show ‐ the original ’80s incarnation anyway ‐ was far more entertaining with its action and alien appearances. Still, while this USA Network series feels familiar it finds its own thrills and mysteries throughout these ten episodes. Josh Holloway (Lost) should ideally be enjoying a film career, but a lead role here will do for now.

[DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurette]

Everybody Wants Some!!

What is it? It’s 1980, and as the summer winds down Jake arrives at college as the baseball team’s new freshman pitcher. With only a few days before classes begin he settles in with his new housemates ‐ also his teammates ‐ meets a new girl, and learns the ins and outs of college life.

Why rent it? Richard Linklater’s nostalgic nod to a specific time and place has plenty to offer viewers regardless of their stance on sports or athletes. It’s a casually enjoyable movie that flows effortlessly through the slightest of plots in search of playful moments and recognizable memories. Its lightweight narrative may affect the value of re-watches, but the first one or two viewings at least are powered by some laughs and a pure sense of fun and joy.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

iZombie: The Complete Second Season

What is it? The zombie cure is no more after Liv Moore, a zombie herself, uses up the last of the batch to help a pair of friends. Forced to remain one of the functioning undead, she’s still eating brains and solving crimes as they work towards a proper cure.

Why rent it? CW’s genre shows are plentiful and something of a mixed bag, but while some find lightweight genre thrills this one continues to struggle with tone. There are some interesting story turns and genre beats, but their weight is muted with comedy that rarely lands. I say this knowing I’m in the minority though, and it remains a show that should appeal to fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars.

[DVD extras: Featurette, deleted scenes]

My Golden Days

What is it? Paul Dedalus (Mathieu Amalric) is returning to France after a decade away, but his trip hits a snag when he’s detained by security. He proceeds to recount the details of various stages of his life including moments of international intrigue and the intimacy of love.

Why rent it? Amalric is always fantastic, but he’s a supporting player here as other actors portray him in younger days. The film moves from his childhood to his teens years, but it takes its time finding an emotional connection with viewers. It’s Paul’s relationship with a troubled young woman named Esther that becomes the heart of the movie, and you can’t help but wish this part of the story was more of a focus.

[DVD extras: Interview, featurettes]

Road Games [Scream Factory]

What is it? Two strangers meet while hitchhiking in rural France and quickly fall in with each other. The new couple catch a shared ride from a passing local, but their leisurely shared meal with the man and his wife (Barbara Crampton) reveals something is amiss. A killer is eating among them.

Why rent it? An early murder and body disposal lets us know that writer/director Abner Pastoll’s second feature has violence heading our way, but its strongest scenes and moments come with the quartet’s introductions and inter-mingling before the shit hits the fan and the bodies hit the floor. We know a killer is loose, and we suspect it’s one of these four. The addition of a fifth wheel in the form of a grizzled, gun-happy older man only complicates things further. Viewers will find their certainties and allegiances shifting like wheat in the nearby fields only to come to rest when the truth finally reveals itself.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, outtakes, deleted scenes, Q&A]

Slasher: Season One [Scream Factory]

What is it? Katie was born through tragedy when a disturbed man killed both her father and mother ‐ and carved Katie from the womb. More than two decades later she returns to the small town and the home where it happened, but death has followed. People around her start meeting grisly fates as someone picks up where the previous killer left off years earlier.

Why rent it? Chiller’s new series bears a clear similarity to the Scream franchise, but it finds its own rhythm as the story unfolds. Unfortunately that story features an abundance of stupid character decisions and actions that annoy on a regular basis. On the plus side though, and the reason why slasher fans will still find enough to enjoy here, it is tremendously gory.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featuette]

Stressed to Kill

What is it? Bill (Bill Oberst Jr.) leads a simple life and works a simple job, but both are still filled with stress inducers that lead him to have a heart attack. Advised by his doctor to eliminate those stressers, Bill decides to do just that ‐ by murdering them. Pricks in traffic, jerks in movie theaters, they’re all fair game for his poisonous blow darts.

Why skip it? It’s a fun setup, but it’s one previously done so much better by Bobcat Goldthwait. The film tries for laughs it never quite manages, and it never really aims for thrills for any kind despite a subplot involving a detective (Armand Assante) who’s hot on Bill’s tail. There’s no real momentum here, nothing to be engaged by or excited about, and it makes for a flat experience. Skip it and watch God Bless America instead.

[DVD extras: None]

Van Gogh

What is it? Vincent Van Gogh has left the asylum he called home and is trying to find peace in his painting. His fragile mental state has other ideas though, and when combined with fraternal conflict and troubles of the heart the legendary artist begins ticking away the final days of his life.

Why rent it? Maurice Pialat’s film is less of a biopic and more of a focus on the renowned artist’s last two months of life. The collective weight of his mental illness, the damage his love can cause, and the burning talent that forces him to create art become too much to bear, and the result is a film that’s as much a tragedy as it is a celebration of the artist and his art.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews/deleted scenes]

Also Out This Week:

Carnival of Souls [Criterion Collection], The Dark Horse, Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow, Milfs vs Zombies, Miracles from Heaven, Naked and Afraid XL: Season 1

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.