Posts Tagged ‘Goth Cat Triana’

Well, yesterday probably as you read this, but October 29 is National Cat Day in the US “to bring awareness to the number of homeless cats,” as Triana herself was before I found her at the County Animal Shelter.  And what better way to combine that with a Monday Pre-Halloween movie than . . . well, as the Indiana University Cinema explains:  Making its U.S. debut at IU Cinema on the 80th anniversary of its original release in Japan, THE GHOST CAT AND THE MYSTERIOUS SHAMISEN is a rare surviving example of a pre-World War II Japanese horror film.  Suzuki Sumiko, Japan’s original horror star, plays a jealous stage actress who murders her romantic rival — and her lover’s cherished pet cat for good measure!  But her bloody past comes back to haunt her … literally.  In Japanese with English subtitles.  Yes, a cat horror movie!  And, one may add, Suzuki Sumiko is not your Western-style “Scream Queen” either, but more often played the monster itself or, in this case, the second best thing.

As to the monster itself, though, there is a Japanese tradition of the ghost cat that comes upon a murder victim and drinks its blood, becoming itself a kind of ghost-monster.  Here it has evolved a little, however, with Kuro the cat as a go-between in what becomes a love triangle.  Or maybe not — our shamisen player is already promised to Ms Sumiko’s character as he explains to the second woman, a samuri’s daughter — and too high-born to be a musician’s girlfriend anyway — who had found and returned his missing Kuro to him.  He does end up giving her his shamisen though just before his betrothed takes matters into her own blood-stained hands and, well, the ghosts of the cat and the rival combine.  And the shamisen thus becomes a cursed object being passed from person to person — assisted by visitations by the cat/woman ghost, depicted through a sort of kaleidoscopic effect — until it winds up in the hands of the dead woman’s little sister, while in the meantime the actress has dumped the musician, becoming instead the mistress of the local feudal lord.  And then it happens there’ll be a kabuki theatre performance where actress, musician, lord, little sister, and ghosts come together. . . .

But let us end now with a guest review, courtesy of IMDb, which I will agree with for the most part.  I will add via the IU Cinema docent, though, that only about four of these pre-war Japanese horror movies have survived in complete form (after 1940 the Japanese movie industry turned to propaganda films, and afterward “revenge” films were banned until the American occupation ended in the early 1950s) and the print we saw, while less than perfect, was probably the best now in existence.  Also the Japanese described such movies, including the 1930s Universal films (e.g., DRACULA,  FRANKENSTEIN, which were shown there too) with a word that means not so much “horror” as “weird.”

Charming movie which lets itself down with poor horror special effects
19 February 2012 | by oOgiandujaOo_and_Eddy_Merckx

Seijiro is a shamisen player for a kabuki troupe (a shamisen being a type of stringed instrument).  He is engaged to Mitsue, a sociopathic actress.  Seijiro’s kindly behaviour towards his cat seems to prove good karma when the cat (Kuro) brings home Okiyo, a kindly and beautiful lady from a higher caste, with whom he forms a friendship.  For this gesture the cat is murdered by Mitsue.  Movies with ghost cats are apparently a genre in Japan, the only one I had previously been aware of is Kaneto Shindo’s Kuroneko, but this is an early example.

A number of scenes feature subsequent hauntings by the cat’s ghost.  The special effects in these moments unfortunately come across as fairly ludicrous.  The ending of the movie revolves around a kabuki performance that’s fairly unintelligible to a modern audience and some frankly pretty unwatchable action/horror scenes.

All that said though, I felt that the movie was very beautiful at points and was rather elegantly framed and shot.  I think what I love about black and white cinema is busy frames full of detail, and the contrast of light and shadow in these busy frames.  This movie, especially in the first half, is quite voluptuous and ornate, and shows a very idealised form of Japanese life, it’s easy to sense that the Japanese are a people who turned living into an art form.

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“Writers & The Animals They Love” is the overarching theme of Heather Baker Weidner’s a bit off the beaten track PENS, PAWS, AND CLAWS blog, on which books take a back seat to the Goth Cat Triana.  Well, not entirely, TOMBS:  A CHRONICLE OF LATTER-DAY TIMES OF EARTH and THE TEARS OF ISIS do still get considerable mention, but their pictures are displayed well below that of you know who.  And subjects covered include not just such standards as the difference between horror and dark fantasy, but also the use of pets in stories and favorite movies/books with animals in them.  Angela Carter’s “The Company of Wolves” would be an example of the latter, while, in general, for a slightly different take on the usual “author interview” of yours truly, be welcome to press here.

Ms. Weidner also mentions that her readers like to leave comments, so feel free to join them with your own.  I’ll make an effort to stop by to answer them two or three times later today, before getting ready to leave for StokerCon Thursday morning.




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