FilmMonthly presents new reviews of “The Invitation” and “Belladonna of Sadness” from Jason Coffman



Karyn Kusama’s career as a feature film director has certainly been unique. After her debut feature Girlfight made a huge impact on film festivals in 2000–including a win at Sundance for Directing and a tie with Kenneth Lonergan’s You Can Count on Me for the festival’s Grand Jury Prize–Kusama was enlisted to direct the big-screen live action adaptation of the cult animated series Aeon Flux (2005) for Paramount. The film was not the hit the studio likely hoped it would be, and Kusama did not return to the director’s chair until Jennifer’s Body in 2009, scripted by Diablo Cody. While that film hit theaters in the middle of a twin backlash against its screenwriter and star Megan Fox, it has subsequently gained a cult following. Kusama’s latest film The Invitation is another major departure from her previous work, further establishing her as a director doing fascinating work in a wide variety of cinematic terrain.


It seems like the last few years have seen quite a boom in the discovery, restoration, and re-release of films that have fallen through the cracks of cinema history. Companies like Vinegar Syndrome, Drafthouse Films, Grindhouse Releasing, Garagehouse, and Distribpix have been introducing new audiences to films previously thought lost or only ever issued in subpar home video releases. While much of those companies’ work has been focused on American releases, other companies such as Arrow have been digging into the vaults of studios outside the States as well. One of the most exciting of these recent discoveries is Eiichi Yamamoto’s psychedelic animated feature Belladonna of Sadness. Before now the film was almost exclusively available from nth-generation bootlegs. The new Blu-ray from Cinelicious Pics is mandatory viewing and belongs in the library of any serious cinephile.


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