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.
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
A man returns to his abandoned wife seeking forgiveness and pays for his cruelty. A snow demon and a young man make a pact. A blind priest is summoned by the ghosts of dead warriors to recite the heroic battle that cost them their lives. A samurai is taunted by ghosts in his cup of tea...
Kobayashi's output has been small compared to his contemporaries' (Kurosawa, Ozu...) yet each of his films is an assault on the senses and a visual gem. After unleashing some of Japan's cinematic legends in two of the greatest samurai films ever made (Samurai Rebellion with Toshiro Mifune and the sublime Harakiri with Tatsuya Nakadai), the master moved on to the supernatural with this collection of ghost stories. Filming for the first time in color, Kobayashi never disappoints, blending spellbinding compositions together and giving us a film of a visual beauty that rivals the best of Kurosawa, Kubrick or Tarkovsky. The eerie feeling of dread is matched only by the film's sheer beauty and power, like watching a moving painting or experiencing a trance.
Kwaidan is not entertaining: it is captivating, bewitching, unique even by it's author's standards. For movie-goers, this is a unique experience. For amateurs of art, it is a feast.
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