Complete list of the films Guillermo del Toro has recommended on twitter. Click the 'Read notes' button to see his…
Bizarre, unearthly, terrifying— a nation's legend, an author's imagination, a director's creation manifest in the superlative— Kwaidan
This is the film adaptation of four stories from the book "Kwaidan: Stories and studies of strange things" by Lafcadio Hearn and is actually a collection of Japanese ghost stories, taken from various sources, some even stemming from China.
As a collection of spooky, transfixing stories fabricated through heightened artificiality and blooming colors, Kwaidan slams the viewer into a mesmerizing trance. It's a beautiful mix of apparitions, surreal visions, and stories birthed from the past, and while the stories vary in quality (1st two - stunning, 2nd two - merely good), by the film's startling, dissonant conclusion, it doesn't really matter. This is a masterful movie.
Takes the experiences of watching a play, reading a book of folk tales, viewing a painting, listening to avant garde music, and having a dream and turns them into a movie. A stylized theatrical back drop, a lighting change, a slightly off-kilter motion, a slightly off-sync cue in Toru Takemitsu's otherworldly soundtrack and suddenly you're transported into the dream. Timeless, but maybe 1960s Japan would have special attraction to moral lessons like: "next time stay at home" or "keep your promises, for the sake of the children, because the past will come back to haunt you" or "remember the past, tell its story well, but don't blindly adhere to it" or "don't be a security obsessed jerk who drinks a soul in my unfinished story or whatever the lesson was in that last one."
I love anthologies. Maybe it's my growing attention issues, but bite-sized nuggets of stories, especially ones linked by theme or style are a more-than-welcome alternative to the immersion I can feel with films that use long running times to tell a single, epic story. Kwaidan obviously fits the bill, and - despite the rating (discussed later) - was beautiful and just the right amount of scary. For the sake of the rating, here's how I liked each separate story:
The Black Hair - 7/10
Kobayashi gets things started with the most overtly-terrifying tale. It's a sad love story with a gruesome twist, and is interesting in and of itself as a tragic tale of regret.…
This is a sumptuous visual feast that through delirious colours, sets and imagery offers up four Japanese tales of the supernatural that all cast a spell and get under your skin over the nearly 3 hour running time. A must-see for fans of Horror and Japanese cinema from the Director of Harakiri and The Human Condition.
A.V. Club review. Still can't believe "The Woman of the Snow" got cut for the U.S. release, as it's far and away the best of the four, in terms of both visual splendor and overall creepiness.
Kwaidan aesthetically strays about as far from realism as one can go, yet is all the better for it. In dealing with the unknown of the spirit world, Kobayashi cinematically just goes for it here, demonstrating his Japanese ghost story chops with some wonderful artistry (including expressionist backdrops) and unforgettably haunting supernatural imagery (the woman of the snow, wow!). There were certain shots in this film that even made me wonder what a Kobayashi Alien film would have looked like, its partial influence over some subsequent horror classics can most certainly be felt. Kobayashi's cinematic approach to these stories is what is most interesting, and his involvement in traditional tropes such as scary Japanese women with long black hair is…
3-hour long horror anthology film that reminded me so much of Kurosawa's Yume with the injection of horror elements into japanese folklore, a variety of colors and fog painting every scene, actors moving with precise coordination, etc. I can't pick a favorite out of the four short stories, all fit each other so well in terms of tone and style and the unnatural quality/background that can be both disorienting and enchanting. I love how lighting was used so obviously (like a stage play) to contrast the character's sanity in the first story, the sadness and guilt conveyed through the second, the shock and chaos in the third, and the absurdity of the forth. Truly an adorable film, a landmark in Japanese horror.
Even with its robust three hour run time, Kwaidan represents a thoughtful and uniquely minimalist approach to its horror anthology structure that paints every frame as a piece of visual art and slathers it in suffocating atmosphere. There are moments where the film feels like it might just slightly drag a bit too long, particularly in the introduction to the naval ghost story, but even then it's all effective in producing the tone that was intended by the director and writers. This is definitely a classic of the genre and it comes highly recommended to horror fans looking for a film to analyze and appreciate.
Kobayashi, the bard?
Kwaidan recounts four Japanese "ghost stories" in a well-crafted succession of narratives, all while pointing to ancient mediums of storytelling.
The third narrative did, admittedly, drag a bit for me; while it undoubtedly contained the most visually compelling sequences, it was also the longest and, unfortunately, the slowest. I couldn't help wishing the narrative would pick up the pace and match the frenetic suspense of those prior. On its own, this would have been fine; yet, the previous structure of the film rendered me engrossed and eager for more sporadic visuals. As a result, the third tale seemed a bit lethargic in comparison.
That being said, Kwaidan is the most beautiful film I've seen this year. Not…
At some points I felt as this film was designed around my personal tastes. I almost became paranoid due to this, creating another sense of dread in this horror film.
Every story uses different techniques, and achieves different kinds of horror. The first is just simple dread, and fear of death, standard to the average horror film. The second creates a a paranoid atmosphere, where you can't trust anyone. The third is, for me at least, about not trusting your senses, and believing everything your body tells you. The last one was tricky. It was almost a Borges-type of short, but along with that it achieving all of the former feelings in just 20 minutes.
The cinematography is amazing. The…
A beautiful masterpiece
Ghosts are a touchy bunch, aren't they?
A pretty good anthology, especially for its time. The atmosphere is conveyed brilliantly via excellent audio and visual design. Unfortunately, I ended up watching a cut version by mistake, so I can't give the film a rating at this time.
Beautiful film, depressing stories (basically whatever you do you're likely to die horribly or be made lonely). Really long too, but with home video at least I could watch it over two nights.
Those below are not available on the site (from what I can tell).
24 Frames Per Century
Black Something (Zellners)…