21 October 2014

Kwaidan (1965)
161 min.
Directed by Masaki Kobayashi.
With Rentaro Mikuni, Keiko Kishi, Misako Watanabe, Katsuo Nakamura, Tetsuro Tamba, Kanemon Nakamura, Michiyo Aratama, Tatsuya Nakadai, Osamu Takizawa, Noburo Nakaya, Ranko Akagi, Yoichi Hayashi, Kenjiro Ishiyama, Seiji Miyaguchi.
Four haunting ghost stories form the backbone of this superior 1965 Japanese horror anthology.

In The Black Hair, an out-of-work samurai leaves his faithful wife for the promise of a new future in Kyoto. Years later, unable to deal with guilt and yearning for his true love, he returns home...only to discover a gruesome realization.

In The Woman of the Snow, a young woodcutter encounters a mysterious snow vampiress who spreads icy death. She informs him that she'll spare his life, as long as he never breathes a word to anyone about her existence. He agrees - but how long can he hold his tongue?

In Hoichi, the Earless, a blind musician is summoned by restless spirits to recount gory war tales from their past. In an effort to protect him from the demanding ghosts, several priests inscribe holy scriptures all over the body of the young man. But will he escape the spectres' wrath without paying a terrible price?

Lastly, In a Cup of Tea has a man simply preparing for his afternoon tea. Inside the cup, he spies a visage of a young man. He can't shake the mysterious mirage, however, so he drinks the tea anyway. Is he going insane - or has he just swallowed a soul? Or are they one and the same?

Based on stories by Yakumo Koizumi, this Japanese exercise in lyrical terror and shivering mood is sumptuously photographed and well acted; it's difficult to say which segment is the best, as the whole enterprise is wonderfully directed by Kobayashi and proves alternately lavish but beautifully subtle throughout.

A must see.

Aka Ghost Stories.

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