Madame O (1967)

Genres - Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Thriller  |   Run Time - 81 min.  |  
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Madame O is a curious pre-cursor to the wave of female-driven "Pinky Violence" films that were popular in Japan during the 1970's. Although it has several of that genre's elements -- an emphasis on sex, a bit of torture and a female hero who takes on a 'masculine' aggressiveness towards the men around her --it actually has more in common with noir films. In fact, the film's periodic shifts to moody black and white photography, the frequently nihilistic narration of the heroine and the tragic romance that comes to drive the story give it a highly noir-ish feel. Lead actress Michiko Aoyama's performance has the right chilly grandeur to fit the noir feel, creating a character that is all ice on the surface and emotionally barren on the inside. Director Seiichi Fukuda handles the material's erotic and brutal extremes with skill but gives the film a surprisingly subdued mood overall, focusing more on the psychology of its characters and etching out the bleak mood of the world they inhabit. "Pinky Violence" fans accustomed to the hyperbolic excesses of films like Sex & Fury might find Madame O too moody and restrained but the unique blending of genres makes Madame O worth a look to any adventurous fans of cult movies.