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November 19, 2013

Sanguivorous

sanguivorous 2.jpg

Kyuketsu
Naoki Yoshimoto - 2011
Tidepoint Pictures All Region DVD

Sanguivorous is an unusual hybrid. Running less than an hour, mostly, but not entirely, a silent movie, made in Japan, a country that did not produce a vampire movie until 1959, the film goes against several idea of conventional filmmaking. On the other hand, if you have no problem with films that stray from traditions, you may find Naoki Yoshimoto's work to be of interest.

The bare bones of the story follow a young woman who is half vampire. Her boyfriend wants to take their relationship further. She runs away, ostensibly to protect her virginity, but in reality to protect her boyfriend from also joining the undead. The young man follow her to a mysterious place where he awakes bound to a chair. The young man is fought over by his girlfriend and an older female vampire. Even getting his blood partial sucked out does not save the young man from becoming the victim of the older male vampire. In other words, this is a love story where almost everybody dies.

Sanguivorous 1.jpg

The narrative aspects are almost besides the point. It's the telling of the tale that makes Sanguivorous of interest. Visually there are reminders of the two great silent vampire movies, Nosferatu and Vampyr, as well as imagery that reminded me of the so-called experimental filmmakers of the Fifties and Sixties that were directly or indirectly influenced by Maya Deren. To some extent, one might argue that the contemporary filmmaker Yoshimoto might have most in common with is Guy Maddin, who combines a visual style that mimics an archaic mode of filmmaking with more contemporary sensibilities.

Yoshimoto isn't interested in retelling a traditional type of vampire story. While some elements are used, others are ignored. Some might be alarmed that the half-vampire girl walks around in daylight. Others will surely notice the extensive use of reflections. The two of the most dramatic images involve reflections as when the girl examines herself in the mirror, hands on the glass as if trying to grasp at herself. Later, after the head vampire takes a shower of his victim's blood, a nod to the Bathory legend, we see him splayed over a pool of blood, his face in reflection as he laps at his source for rejuvenation. What is most intriguing of all is the opening scene, with the girl apparently coughing up a small crucifix held in her bloody palm. While the film also is primarily in black and white, there is a judicious use of color, primarily red.

Dramatically, the film is anchored by Ayumi Kakizawa as reluctant vampire, as much a victim as her boyfriend. Top butoh dancer Ko Murobushi plays the lead vampire. Where Murobushi's dance training is displayed here is after his shower of blood, a solo performance with a series of convulsive, spastic movements.

Posted by peter at November 19, 2013 07:43 AM