Law of Desire

The apocalypse has arrived, not with a bang but with the whimper of wind whistling through tall grass, in Kaneto Shindo’s mesmerizing 1964 fable, Onibaba (The Hole). An unflinching tale of wartime survival and carnal hunger, this impeccably composed black-and-white film insinuates us into the company of two rural women -- a hardened spitfire and her acquiescent daughter-in-law -- who sustain themselves by ambushing and robbing injured samurai, then dragging the stripped bodies to the titular pit. The return of a neighboring man from far-off battles upends their routine, and triggers a host of base impulses. Shindo took an old Buddhist parable, substituted sex for prayer, and created a film with contemporary relevance that also (for those inclined to look) summons the specter of Japan after Hiroshima. The last of a three-film mini-tribute to the marvelous Japanese writer-director, who died earlier this year at 100, Onibabaleaves us shuddering in recognition of the injuries we inflict on ourselves through selfishness and panic.
Thu., Aug. 23, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 26, 2 p.m., 2012

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