INDIEWIRE: Cinelicious Restoring Japanese Queer Classic ‘Funeral Parade of Roses’

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By Vikram Murthi
June 30, 2016

Exclusive: Cinelicious Restoring Japanese Queer Classic ‘Funeral Parade of Roses’

Cinelicious Pics and actor Elijah Wood’s production company SpectreVision will restore and re-release Toshio Matsumoto’s Japanese queer cinema classic “Funeral Parade of Roses.” A loose adaptation of “Oedipus Rex” set in the gay underground of 1960’s Tokyo, the film follows a group of transgender people as they travel through a largely unseen world of drag bars and nightclubs, fueled by booze, drugs, fuzz guitar, performance art and black mascara.

Long unavailable in the United States, “Funeral Parade of Roses” is an intoxicating masterpiece of subversive imagery, combining elements of documentary and the avant garde. Stanley Kubrick acknowledged that the film was a major influence on “A Clockwork Orange.” Check out some exclusive images from the film below.

“Funeral Parade of Roses” is slated for a theatrical release in early 2017 with VOD and Blu-ray to follow.





INDIEWIRE: ‘Private Property’ Exclusive Trailer & Poster: Lost 1960s Noir Melodrama Starring Warren Oates


By Vikram Murthi
June 8, 2016

The film will anchor the The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Warren Oates Retrospective this July.

Leslie Stevens’ 1960 film “Private Property” follows two Southern California drifters, played by Warren Oates and Corey Allen (“Rebel Without a Cause”), who wander into a seemingly-perfect Beverly Hills home of an unhappy housewife (Kate Manx, who was Stevens’ spouse at the time) and worm their way into her life. Thought to be lost for many years until the UCLA Film & Television Archive dug up some missing elements and Cinelicious Pics completed a full 4K restoration of the film. Now this eerie, voyeuristic neo-Hitchcockian thriller, shot almost entirely in Stevens and Manx’s own home, will finally see the light of day once again during the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Warren Oates retrospective running from July 1st through July 7th. Watch the trailer for the film above.

Warren Oates was a character actor best known for his work in the 1970’s. Some of his best known work includes Sam Peckinpah’s “The Wild Bunch” and “Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia,” Terrence Malick’s “Badlands,” Monte Hellman’s “Two-Lane Blacktop,” Peter Fonda’s “The Hired Hand,” and Ivan Reitman’s “Stripes.” Meanwhile, Leslie Stevens is best known for creating the 1960’s sci-fi anthology series “The Outer Limits” and directing the horror film “Incubus” starring William Shatner.

“Private Property” will open in New York on July 4th weekend. The Film Society Lincoln Center has also just announced an Oates retrospective, which you can find more about here. Check out the poster below.


ROLLING STONE: Inside the Greatest X-Rated Animated Film You’ve Never Heard Of



By Jason Newman
May 11, 2016

Long-lost 1973 erotic anime ‘Belladonna of Sadness’ gets the restoration treatment — and finally, the audience it deserves

At the 1973 Berlin Film Festival, overenthusiastic parents, eager to take their kids to a “family-friendly” animated film, crowded into a German theater for a recently released Japanese anime film with an unusual title: Belladonna of Sadness. They expected something that might distract their kids for 90 minutes, a sort of proto-My Neighbor Totoro; instead, they were treated to an opening scene that climaxes with a brutal prima nocta gang rape, a devil disguised as an impish phallus worming his way between the heroine’s legs and, in between surreal orgy scenes, a meditative reflection on war, class structure and feminism.

A lost masterpiece for more than 40 years, Eiichi Yamamoto’s singular, psychedelic film was largely neglected (or outright derided) upon its release, ruined the studio that produced it and, in subsequent years, became a discrete curio passed around in bootleg form among anime fanatics. Never before released in the United States, the film has been restored by Cinelicious Pics, ready to shock a new generation of cult movie fans and outré animation aficionados. (It opens in Los Angeles on May 13th, and will be available on iTunes starting July 12th.)

The plot, as such: When newlyweds Jeanne and Jean approach the lord of the manor for blessings on their marriage, the lord and his courtiers viciously assault the new bride. Broken by the experience, the young woman begins conversing with an impish demon, who first appears as a playful penis. After war breaks out and most of the men (including the region’s regent) leave for battle, Jeanne makes a pact with Satan for supernatural powers and becomes a prominent, feared figure in the village; the Joan of Arc-like avenging angel eventually leads a rebellion against the ruling class.

But any attempt to describe the boundary-pushing narrative pales in comparison to Belladonna’s form and imagery, as the film blends still pictures of watercolor paintings and illustrations with surreal, trippy visuals. (Think Chris Marker’s La Jetée meets Fantastic Planet — or Yellow Submarine meets your worst acid freakout.) In one series of scenes, a man’s penis turns into a horse, a giraffe grows out of another man’s genitals, rabbits escape someone’s rectum, two tortoises 69 each other and several fish wriggle from a woman’s vagina. Pixar this is not.

Musician and composer Masahiko Satoh’s esoteric score only adds to the weirdness; a dizzying blend of atonal avant-garde jazz, lush ballads, psychedelic rock and dirty, wah-wah-driven funk. “The imagery of the film is very abstract, so I had to think abstractly,” Satoh says. “I had two routes when thinking about how to compose music for the film: try to find a sound that expresses the truth of the characters’ internal struggles or express it through a pop aesthetic. I ended up going between those two.”

Inspired by French historian-author Jules Michelet’s 1862 feminist witchcraft novel La Sorciere, Belladonna of Sadness remains that rare anime whose sense of transgression and shock value hasn’t diminished four decades after its release. At the time, film studios like Toei – whose best known protégé Hiyao Miyazaki would become one of the medium’s most celebrated directors – were well-known for its popular, yet largely anodyne offerings. Yamamoto’s film bucked that trend — and ended up paying the price for it.

“It was simply too hardcore for most animation audiences in the early 1970s,” Dennis Bartok, Executive Vice President, Acquisitions & Distribution for Cinelicious, writes in a new essay accompanying the film’s release. “It was, tellingly, too strange even for grindhouse distributors to take a crack at. [It’s] the first truly erotic animated feature film.”

“There was colorful stuff, but nothing that really pushed the envelope,” says Mike Toole, editor-at-large for Anime News Network. “[Mushi Productions head and anime godfather] Osamu Tezuka wanted to push the limits of the medium and make something targeted for adults. The public was not ready for Belladonna when it came out. It had a reputation as, ‘This is one of the worst animes ever made.’ But in retrospect, not so much. There’s a new appreciation for it.”

Mushi had long earned acclaim for creating the lovable, ubiquitous Astro Boy series in the 1960s. But Belladonna, the third film in the studio’s trilogy that also included 1001 Nights (1969) and Cleopatra (1970 — its American title was Cleopatra: Queen of Sex), was virtually ignored upon its Japanese release, sparsely distributed in Europe and never made it stateside. The studio, already teetering on the edge of solvency, went bankrupt, in part, because of its release. In subsequent years, however, it would become ground zero for a generation of beloved filmmakers (Osamu Dezaki, Gisaburo Sugii) and studios (Sunrise, Madhouse).

For the film’s creators, the second life of one of anime’s most shocking movies is as surprising to them as anyone else. “I hadn’t really thought about it at all in the past 40 years,” Satoh laughs. “I’m just glad it’s gotten another chance in the limelight.”
Asked how he would describe the film to someone who’s never seen it, Belladonna artist Kuni Fukai’s answer is swift: “To not watch it with your family.”

THE NEW YORK TIMES: ‘Belladonna of Sadness,’ a Bewitching Masterpiece


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By Glenn Kenny
May 5, 2016

To summarize this film is to present a solid argument that it’s one of the most unusual ever made: “Belladonna of Sadness,” making its New York premiere on Friday, is a 1973 Japanese erotic animated musical inspired by the 19th-century French historian Jules Michelet’s account of witchery in the Middle Ages.

The reality of the movie, directed by Eiichi Yamamoto, is odder still. Opening with a jazz-rock song and lyrical, static imagery of attractive Western figures in watercolor, it features narration telling of Jean and Jeanne, young French provincial marrieds “smiled upon by God.” But not for long. Jeanne is subjected to a brutal, surrealistically rendered gang rape by the village lord and his claque. The film then lays out an imaginative, and sometimes overwrought, narrative exegesis, positing that the power of feminine sexuality is essentially demonic. While weaving thread one afternoon, post-trauma, Jeanne is visited by a small, phallus-shaped imp.

“Are you the Devil?” she asks.

“I am you,” he replies. Thus begins Jeanne’s triumph and ruin.

“Belladonna of Sadness” is compulsively watchable, even at its most disturbing: The imagery is frequently graphic, and still, after over 40 years, it has the power to shock. The narrative, however implausible, is seductive. And the meticulously executed visual freakouts are awe-inspiring: The Black Death, which, of course, spices up the story line, gets its own four-minute production number. The variety of graphic modes — with references to fashion magazines, pop art, psychedelia, underground comics, arty pornography and much more — is dizzying.

“Belladonna of Sadness” is undoubtedly a landmark of animated film, and arguably a masterpiece. But it’s a very disquieting one. After experiencing the picture, you are left with the nagging suspicion that its retrograde ideology and its ravishing imagery are not contradictory attributes but are, rather, inextricably codependent.

INDIEWIRE: Cinelicious Pics to Release 4k Restoration of Lost Noir ‘Private Property’



By Zack Sharf
March 21, 2016

The noir hails from Orson Welles protégé Leslie Stevens.

Cinelicious Pics has announced plans to distribute a new 4k restoration of the long-lost 1960’s noir “Private Property.” The movie is directed by Leslie Stevens and stars American character actor Warren Oates in his first significant screen role. The 4k restoration will have its world premiere at the 7th Annual TCM Classic Film Festival, which runs from April 28-May 1 in Hollywood.

The official synopsis reads: “‘Private Property’ begins as two homicidal Southern California drifters wander off the beach and into the seemingly-perfect Beverly Hills home of an unhappy housewife. Shimmering with sexual tension and lensed in stunning black and white by master cameraman Ted McCord, ‘Private Property’ is both an eerie, neo-Hitchcockian thriller and a savage critique of the hollowness of the Playboy-era American Dream.”

“I was completely bowled over by the film,” said David Marriott, Cinelicious Pics’ Director of Acquisitions, in an official statement. “A sort of hothouse late-period film noir, ‘Private Property’ is deeply bizarre and incredibly compelling. Considering the talent involved – director Stevens, cameraman Ted McCord, actor Warren Oates – it’s very rare to rediscover a completely lost crime film like this.”

“We’re thrilled to be showcasing a discovery of this caliber at the TCM Classic Film Festival,” added Charles Tabesh, senior vice president of programming for Turner Classic Movies (TCM). “Our mission at TCM is to bring audiences great classic films and to help them discover unknown classics, such as ‘Private Property.'”

The film had a very brief theatrical release in the 1960’s but has been lost ever since. The title joins other Cinelicious restorations, including “Belladonna of Sadness.”

INDIEWIRE: Poster for Long-Lost ‘Belladonna of Sadness’ is Cleverly Censored for an American Audience



By Jake Spencer
March 21, 2016

Indie outfit Cinelicious Pics recently restored Eiichi Yamamoto’s ambitious animated masterpiece, “Belladonna of Sadness,” for the big screen. The film’s trailer, released last month, reveals just how controversial the film still is after all all these years (it was first released in 1973).

The film follows Belladonna, a peasant woman, who makes a pact with the devil to gain magical powers after she is banished from her village after a horrific attack. What follows seems like a psycho-sexual journey into the depths of a woman’s despair.

“Belladonna of Sadness” opens May 6 for its fist ever run in America, first at the brand-new Metrograph theater in New York and the Alamo Drafthouse at the New Mission in San Francisco, and at The Cinefamily in Los Angeles the week of May 13, with a national rollout to follow. Check out our exclusive poster below.