Top positive review
color, action, scary ... not to be missed!
on June 15, 2003
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! The real regret here may be that they are done so well, it 'disappoints' us because other ghost stories don't all receive such lavish and excellent professional treatment. ie, KWAIDAN is so excellent, it's almost unfair!
One begins to realize, at some point in viewing KWAIDAN, how much expense and trouble went in to the making of this film.
6. Film illiteracy and immaturities block many of us from full appreciation of KWAIDAN. Just "don't let this happen to you!"
As we all know, attitudes and prejudices can be destructive. Would that we had such a democratic attitude towards excellent film! Our appreciation of KWAIDAN is thereby immeasurably enriched, enhanced. Educational (*yawn*) it is, but is also enjoyably rich, lavish, and exciting, once you get into it. Believe me, your senses will not be cheated!
I'm no massively huge fan of artistic orientalia either, on film or otherwise - but that doesn't keep me from loving KWAIDAN!
As an impatient foreign language teacher of mine used to say, "Don't be a cultural boor!"
7. 'Uneven' moments ? Perhaps. However, we must allow for cultural/artisitic differences between modern West and ancient East. You needn't be a sinophile Kabuki or 'Noh' drama fan to get alot out of KWAIDAN. Not being oriental, we may not be in a position to fairly judge. But that is no reason to miss KWAIDAN. It's not an excruciating gymnastic effort of a cultural leap, to dial oneself to come to appreciate the rich momentum of this film. We can bravely give ourselves the permission, and allow ourselves to be receptive to KWAIDAN. This would not be cultural snobbery.
Grant yourself the privilege!
8. KWAIDAN easily competes with 'Gates of Hell' (50s) as one of the most beautiful films ever made in Japan. Relish it. 'The Snow Queen' tale is visually colorful and magnificent. The battle scenes in 'Hoichi the Earless' episode easily compete with anything else in color ('Kagemusha' fans, take note!)...no need to extenuate. Let's not cry and spill our coca-cola and popcorn because KWAIDAN isn't 'Terminator 2.' There is another kind of excitement and action here to enjoy and appreciate. This is a lavish film!
Certainly KWAIDAN ranks with 'Seven Samurai' and 'Tokyo Story' as one of the top handful of films ever to come out of Japan.
9. Soundtrack: effective and haunting music of a classic oriental style. This film no doubt caused pop stars of the 60s to introduce such music and oriental instruments into their repertoire, for effect. No better example than KWAIDAN to derive from. Quite the presentation.
10. DON'T miss Kobayashi's other excellent film 'Harakiri,'(b&w, 60s) which many consider at least as excellent as KWAIDAN (though shorter, and not in color.)Ie, there's more excellent Kobayashi where KWAIDAN came from ... one needn't feel deprived.