Discover a masterpiece of Japanese cinema from one of the pioneers of the postwar period, a fantastic kabuki fable now magnificently restored.
Akira and Yuri (renowned kabuki star Tamasaburō Bandō) live near a mysterious pond in an isolated mountain village in Echizen, in the prefecture of Fukui. Local legend says the pond is home to the Dragon God, a demon that will emerge and produce a fatal flood if Akira doesn’t ring the village bell three times a day. Yamazawa, a scholar and old friend of Akira’s, is travelling from Tokyo; thirsty at the end of his journey, he meets Yuri and wonders, as she tends a flourishing garden despite the village’s drought, if she is a sorceress.
Restored with the director’s supervision and screened as part of the 2021 Cannes Classics program, Demon Pond is a poetic, wonderfully weird cinema experience. Based on a kabuki play written at the start of the 20th century by Izumi Kyōka, who specialised in fantasy tales, Shinoda’s film draws heavily on this theatrical tradition: actors wear heavy make-up, sets are static and stylised, performances are heightened, and the pond is home to some remarkable creatures – real, imaginary and utterly unforgettable.
A fable told in a colorful, whimsical, theatrical style … The film’s secrets deserve to be kept, because its story unfolds slowly, in a mysterious manner.
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