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Kwaidan (Widescreen) (The Criterion Collection)

4.5 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Actors: Rentarô Mikuni, Michiyo Aratama, Misako Watanabe, Kenjirô Ishiyama, Ranko Akagi
  • Directors: Masaki Kobayashi
  • Writers: Lafcadio Hearn, Yôko Mizuki
  • Producers: Minoru Tabata, Satoshi Kohinata, Shigeru Wakatsuki, Takeshi Aikawa, Yoshishige Uchiyama
  • Format: Anamorphic, Color, DVD-Video, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English, Japanese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: UNRATED
  • Studio: Criterion
  • Release Date: Oct. 1 2002
  • Run Time: 183 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews
  • ASIN: B00004W3HF
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #34,601 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)
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Product Description

Product Description

Winner of the Special Jury Prize at Cannes, Kwaidan features four nightmarish tales in which terror thrives and demons lurk. Adapted from traditional Japanese ghost stories, this lavish, widescreen production drew extensively on Kobayashi's own training as a student of painting and fine arts. Criterion is proud to present Kwaidan in a new ravishing color transfer.

A masterpiece of filmmaking artifice and mood-setting atmosphere, Kwaidan consists of four ghost stories adapted from the fiction of Greek-born Lafcadio Hearn (a.k.a. Yakumo Koizumi, 1850-1904), who assimilated into Japanese culture so thoroughly that his writings reveal no evidence of Western influence. So it is that these four cinematic interpretations--perhaps more accurately described as tales of spectral visitation--are sublimely Japanese in tone and texture, created entirely in a studio with frequently stunning results. There are painterly images here that remain the most beautiful and haunting in all of Japanese cinema, presented with the purity of silent film, sparsely accompanied by post-synchronized sounds and music (by Toru Takemitsu) that enhance the otherworldly effect of director Masaki Kobayashi's meticulous imagery. When viewed in a receptive frame of mind, Kwaidan can be intensely hypnotic.

Each of the four stories find their protagonists confronted by spirits that compel them to (respectively) make amends for past mistakes, maintain vows of silence, satisfy the yearnings of the undead, or capture phantoms that remain frightfully elusive. As each tale progresses, their supernatural elements grow increasingly intense and distant from the confines of reality. With careful use of glorious color and wide-screen composition, Kwaidan exists in a netherworld that is both real and imagined, its characters never quite sure they can trust what they've seen and heard. Vastly different from the more overt shocks of Western horror, the film casts a supernatural spell that remains timelessly effective. --Jeff Shannon

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
Some useful thoughts for the prospective viewer:
1.At last! The beautiful KWAIDAN on DVD! We can expect even better color and visuals than even the VHS transfers.
2. KWAIDAN was originally released on two (count 'em: two) VHS tapes. It's long!
On VHS, at 2-and-one-half-plus hours, the new release on a one-tape cassette version is pushing it, and prone to damage. ( I've had similar problems with my one-cassette VHS edition of Bergman's lengthy 'Scenes from a Marriage.') Get a DVD player, and the KWAIDAN DVD, in preference to the more fragile one-cassette VHS release.
3. Despite its careful pacing this film is scary. One two tape edition was released with warnings on the box that KWAIDAN is not for children.
KWAIDAN is not for the pacemaker crowd, either. Like watching Bergman, be sure you've been eating your Wheaties. You may not actually need a doctor's clearance to watch KWAIDAN, however... but be forewarned: KWAIDAN is a powerful film, full of surprises.
4. "slow?" Broaden your horizons ... think of film from a new point of view. Films like KWAIDAN use such pacing to contribute to the film's overall impact. Director's use pacing of whatever type, for a reason. Better than rushing thru the experience, believe me. Put your ideas about Disney-paced ghost stories aside, please. Kwaidan is a work of art, to put it in a nutshell.
Give yourself the time and chance to get into KWAIDAN. It's worth it. Time well-repaid, you will be richly rewarded.
5. "Only four stories?" some reverse psychology hiding in such an idea: would that all similar oriental ghost stories could receive a similar excellent/superior treatment!
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By A Customer on Feb. 1 2003
Format: VHS Tape
I first saw this film many years ago in a theater, and I have not forgotten its many memorable scenes and images. This is the kind of movie that will often baffle people used to traditional dramas. Some will criticize the fact that many of the scenes don't look real. Well, that may have been the whole point. I think the director, Masaki Kobayashi was trying to transport the moviegoer to another world, one that is both supernatural and surreal. There is a dreamlike quality to this movie, much like the films of Jean Cocteau.
This is also a movie about the art of telling a story. As is often the case with storytelling, it's not the story itself that is important, but rather the WAY the story is told that captures our fancy. Take, for instance, one the film's best stories, "Hoichi the Earless." In the old Japan, the story of the Heike clan's demise was often recited by biwa hoshi, blind musician/singers who performed the work before audiences. It's this oral tradition that we encounter in the Hoichi story. The combination of the storyteller's dramatic recitation of the Heike clan's last stand and Kobayashi's hauntingly beautiful images is simply mesmerizing.
You may not come away liking this movie as much as I do. But you should see it at least once in your lifetime. If you are like me, this film will stay with you for a very long time.
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Format: VHS Tape
This movie isn't for all tastes obviously. It is extremely slow paced and some people can't handle that. But if you can allow yourself to fall into the eerie visuals and sound, the pacing winds up making the film that much more haunting when it finally does become scary. The stories are very simple but dark parables. One of the keys to the film's quality, in addition to the beautiful visuals, is the music/sound by Toru Takemitsu. He often incorporates sounds into the music, for example, breaking wood or a creaking spindle, to a fabulously creepy affect. At other times he replaces sounds with a musical representation of the sound like the "sounds" of the storm in the "Hoichi the Earless" segment. Takemitsu was such an assett to every film maker he worked with. Kobayashi is a terrific film maker... "Harakiri" and "Samurai Rebellion" are also must sees. "Kwaidan" is very different from those films, but then again, it's also very different from every other film ever made. It's a totally unique work of pure art.
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Format: DVD
With his "Kwaidan" score, Toru Takemitsu created the most remarkable work of art by using sound as music and music as sound. The line between the two is as blurred as the film form would allow it, in 1964 or nowadays. True to the Japanese tradition, his sound is minimal and well measured. It is executed with great taste and utmost precision but retains all of its natural qualities. It is probably the most effective score that I've ever heard. The only question for me is whether this can even be called 'a score': it certainly deserves a new word to be coined for it. In fact, I do remember noticing unusual opening credit for it but I can't remember the exact words that were used.
If you were moved by the flow of his notes in "Woman in the Dunes" or were intrigued with Masaru Sato's amazing score for "Yojimbo", this will take you to a completely new level of listening. It's an absolute aural masterpiece from this high master of film music!
Of course, this is only my opinion but I usually listen to movies more carefully than I watch them. You'll just have to trust my ears and their taste on this one.
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