An elder ronin samurai arrives at a feudal lord's home and requests an honorable place to commit suicide. But when the ronin inquires about a younger samurai who arrived before him things take an unexpected turn.
The mother of a feudal lord's only heir is kidnapped away from her husband by the lord. The husband and his samurai father must decide whether to accept the unjust decision, or risk death to get her back.
From the Criterion Collection: "Among the first Japanese films to deal directly with the scars of World War II, this drama about a group of rank-and-file Japanese soldiers jailed for crimes... See full summary »
This film contains four distinct, separate stories. "Black Hair": A poor samurai who divorces his true love to marry for money, but finds the marriage disastrous and returns to his old wife, only to discover something eerie about her. "The Woman in the Snow": Stranded in a snowstorm, a woodcutter meets an icy spirit in the form of a woman spares his life on the condition that he never tell anyone about her. A decade later he forgets his promise. "Hoichi the Earless": Hoichi is a blind musician, living in a monastery who sings so well that a ghostly imperial court commands him to perform the epic ballad of their death battle for them. But the ghosts are draining away his life, and the monks set out to protect him by writing a holy mantra over his body to make him invisible to the ghosts. But they've forgotten something. "In a Cup of Tea": a writer tells the story of a man who keep seeing a mysterious face reflected in his cup of tea. Written by
Although most of the vignettes acknowledge a passage of time, in some cases several years, the months of principle action in the film are, in order, September, December, March, and February (or New Year's Day of the Fourth Tenwa). See more »
marvellous fairy-tales: directorial and cinematographic fabulous
Cinematographer Yoshio Miyajima did a marvellous job, although most of the visuals in this masterpiece are obviously invented by Kobayashi. It is clearly studio-work, but Kobayashi turns that to his advance by making the most marvellous background paintings I've ever seen in a movie and his virtuosity comes to full exposure in the light effects that are fabulous for such an old film. That together with the beautiful colors creates a mesmerizing and sometimes terrifying experience. 'Marco the magnificent' (Patelliere&Howard, 1964) reminded me of the visuals in Kwaidan, because of the beautiful environmental shots and because of the (supposed) history of mixture of eastern and western stories. Forget that movie instantly plz. Another film that has nothing to do with this one, but is brilliant and comparable only because of the episode structure, the fairy-tale nature and great cinematography is Kaos (Taviani, 1984).
Kwaidan has such a haunting effect because of the scary music and the sound effects are unnerving(-ly edited). Some call it horror. I thought the pace was rather slow for horror, but it is a film that does not let go easily. The actors (one of which is Takeshi Shimura) convince enthusiastically and they too make it an entertaining film. According to the user-rating this is Kobayashi's least interesting work of these three: Joi-uchi, Seppuku, and Kwaidan. I can't wait to see the other two, although I don't think they can surpass this masterpiece.
10 points out of 10 :-)
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