THE MAD FOX (Tomu Uchida) Rating: NNNN
Cinematheque's retrospective of the work of little-known Japanese director Tomu Uchida kicks off tonight with a screening of what's got to be one of the weirdest films in any language.
The Mad Fox is set during Japan's Heian period, captured in some stunning painted backdrops. A series of spooky omens (a white rainbow, fire in the sky) presage bad things for the court, and the cryptic answers seem hidden in an ancient scroll called the Golden Crow.
What follows - torture, murder and possible bestiality - is only the beginning of this hallucinatory fairy tale's trippy charm.
Before he became a director himself (he assisted Mizoguchi early on), Uchida worked for a time as a travelling actor, which explains the use of masks and the last act's completely theatrical setting.
But his use of colour, not to mention special effects - a few of which seem pretty quaint today - is pure cinema. Although he was later known as a master of realism, he's not after that here, where he's in love with artifice.
Many sections were obviously shot on sound stages, and there's an eerie coldness and silence to them that's perfect for this bizarre fable.
Not everything works, but you have to admire Uchida's technical ballsiness. This should whet your appetite for the dozen or so other films on display - none of them available on DVD - over the next few weeks.
Screens Friday (October 26) at Jackman Hall.