Dec 23, 2015

A film by Masaki Kobayashi
1964 / Japan / 183 mins / Col
5.45pm /27th Dec 2015/ Perks Mini Theater

 Masaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan – which offers a four ghost stories based on old Japanese folk tales is one of the most meticulously crafted supernatural fantasy films ever made, and it  is also one of the most unusual.  This is a  a four-part, three-hour epic that turns each of its tales into full-blown cinematic symphonies. Kwaidan is based on the writings of Lafcadio Hearn, a folklorist of Greek-Irish ancestry who  became a naturalized Japanese citizen in 1895, and changed his name to Yakumo Koizumi. As directed by Kobayashi, Hearn’s four tales unfurl across the screen like versions of the classic Japanese paintings of the historical periods in which the film is set.

Kwaidan’s  four short supernatural stories (Black Hair, Hoichi the Earless, In a Cup of Tea and The Woman of the Snow ) all involve an encounter with a ghost's presented in a highly stylized and intellectual manner, that serves up a colorfully exotic offering. The film's plusses are its strong imagery, haunting atmosphere and some memorably striking spooky moments. The best story is titled "Hoichi the Earless" and tells about a blind biwa player (Katsuo Nakamura) called by the spirits to recite his tale of the doomed Heike clan's defeat by their rival Taira clan to a samurai ghost.

"Black Hair" is the tale of a samurai (Rentaro Mikuni) who returns to the wife he deserted for a selfish, wealthy woman some time ago and, after sleeping with the neglected woman, discovers her skeletal remains in his bed and goes raving mad.

"The Woman of the Snow" is a story cut from the theatrical releases abroad but was restored when the film was released on DVD. A young apprentice woodcutter (Tatsuya Nakadai) is saved from death by a mysterious snow maiden who vows to kill him should he ever blab about what went down, as she kills his woodcutter boss with her breath. "In a Cup of Tea" A guard (Ganemon Nakamura) sees a samurai's face in his teacup and absorbs the ghost's soul into his body after drinking the tea.

The film took five years to make and was the most expensive Japanese film to date. It won the Jury Prize at Cannes in 1965. Kaidan seizes on the both the analytical relevance and the irreducible poetry of the tradition it invokes. Despite the longeurs, it provides one of the richest, most entrancing cinema experiences around. (Source:Internet)

Masaki Kobayashi

Masaki Kobayashi is one of Japan's most outstanding  humanist filmmakers. A contemporary of Akira Kurosawa and Kon Ichikawa, Kobayashi's personal experience of the Second World War has marked his pictures with a deep concern for social justice. His most acclaimed films are unflinching explorations into the dark side of Japanese culture, the side that drove men to commit gory suicide for the name of honor and commit horrific atrocities in the name of the Emperor. Kobayashi's exacting professionalism makes his films a visually and emotionally power experience.

Born in February, 1916, in Japan's northern-most island Hokkaido, Kobayashi entered prestigious Waseda University in 1933 . Kobayashi eventually left Waseda to enter Shochiku's Ofuna studios. Kobayashi worked as an assistant for a mere eight months before he was drafted and sent to the front in Manchuria. Opposed to the war, which he viewed as senseless, he refused to rise above the position of private. In 1944, he was transferred to the southern Ryukyu Islands, where he witnessed the war's final bloody tumult. There he was captured by the U.S. and held for a year in a detention camp in Okinawa.

In the fall of 1946, Kobayashi returned to Shochiku and served for six years as an assistant director under Keisuke Kinoshita. He garnered international acclaim and a prestigious San Giorgio prize at the Venice Film Festival in 1960 for his Human Condition I: No Greater Love (1958), the first installment of sweeping trilogy about the war. Kobayashi's films brought to life by the masterful performances of Nakadai in such Kobayashi classics as Harakiri (1962), Kwaidan (1964), and Samurai Rebellion (1967).With the acclaimed Kwaidan, his first color film, he pushed this emphasis on composition with his expressionistic use of color. Kobayashi died in of a heart attack in 1996.


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