This is what happens when your car breaks down on a Sunday morning and you have nothing else to do…
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.…
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.
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.
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…
Super creepy, totally compelling Japanese ghost story anthology film. Thanks to it, I'm now afraid of hair. I don't like it as much as Harakiri, but it's a close second.
"...like dead leaves carpeting the waves of a river..."
Eerie and undeniably elegant, 'Kwaidan' take its own sweet, deliberate time to unfold. Kobayashi eschews the traditional horror trope, for a more delicate and subtle examination of the deep, dark feelings. The gorgeous production design, the silent score, the meticulous amount of detail being poured into every frame; you can tell it's an insurmountable work of a singular vision. It's not a horror movie per say; it's more of a melodrama that happens to have ghosts in it.
The ghost stories themselves are okay...could have used a little more bite. But, who cares? The real attraction here is the gorgeous colors and production design that make this a transporting film.
Those matte painting skies in the second story...and the naval battle in the third story...wow.
tspdt 898 2016
The two first stories are very good, if the second two parts were at this level then it would be a strong four stars.
As it is, the third story has some very good moments but is over long and I didn't find the fourth story so interesting. So at the moment its a strong three stars, but teetering on the edge of four.
Kobayashi may be the director with the most inherently sad filmography because we are always faced with the lament that oppression has consistently throughout history been the successful mode of governing peoples.
I love Japanese ghost stories, and this is one of my favorites next to Ugetsu and Onibaba. This is one of the most beautiful films ever made, in my estimation. The sets are very obvious, similar to The Wizard of Oz where you can see the back wall of the studio in a scene. But the artistry in the details is haunting and gorgeous.
A stunning, albeit slow-as-molasses movie. Ghost stories, emph. on Brechtian-Kabuki artifice, marvelous stuff. Sarah loved the third story (耳無し芳一の話), particularly the early naval battle. It was remarkable.
Great. Last shot was incredible.
Movies that are slightly off.