Kwaidan (1964)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBBB

Original title:  Kaidan

Japan, 1964.  Bungei, Ninjin Club, Toho Company, Toyo Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha.  Screenplay by , based on the novel by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by .  

This haunting film is a collection of ghost stories written by Lafcadio Hearn, a Greek-Irish journalist who moved to Japan and wrote under the name Koizumi Yakumo. Richly directed by Masaki Kobayashi in stunning, full colour, the stories range from the incredibly odd to the absolutely bone-chilling. The first has a man abandon his wife for a richer woman and come back to her decades later to find her as young and beautiful as she was when he left her. Or is she? There might be something more evil at work than just his dumb luck. The second story has a man cross an Ice Witch the wrong way and pay for breaking his promise to her. The most effective story, and the most frightening, is the third, where a Buddhist monk risks his soul by playing music for an imperial court of ghosts who request him to recreate their epic deaths for them. The monk’s colleagues cover his entire body with holy writing to protect him from the continued visits of the spirits, but they forget to include any markings on his ears… Unfortunately, Kobayashi saves the weakest story for last, a pretty odd but unaffecting story about a man who keeps seeing the reflection of an evil spirit in his tea. It’s more humorous than the other three, which is probably fitting after the gravity of the third story, but also a bit incongruous as well. Still, no matter, for this entire film is an experience you won’t likely forget very soon.

The Criterion Collection:  #90

Academy Award Nomination:  Best Foreign Language Film

Cannes Film Festival Award:  Jury Special Prize


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