Monday, September 19, 2011


The bureau chief liked Masaki Kobayashi's 1964 film "Kwaidan"so much when he first saw it that he watched it again soon afterwards. That was back in the early 70s when there were not yet any VCRs, much less DVDs, and one had to drag one's ass to an actual theater. Recently I was curious to see it again, 40 or so years down the line.  It's not as good a film as I remembered, but has several aspects that survived the test of time.

It's a collection of four Japanese ghost stories by the writer Lafcadio Hearn. The first segment, "The Black Hair", may be the weakest, but for someone who labored in the dark satanic mills of sound editing, as the bureau chief did, it has an interesting aspect. There are no traditional sound effects in that segment. It begins in silence and then there is some minimalist music and a sound of clattering wood that syncs up to nothing in the scene. Turns out that the film's composer, the celebrated Toru Takemitsu, was also the "Sound Designer". Talk about the Music Department winning before the mix even starts.

The second segment,"The Woman of the Snow", and the third, "Hoichi the Earless", are the strongest. Both have really interesting Art Direction which Madame Le Chef pointed out serves as a time capsule from the 60s. The whole film was shot on sets. The winter landscape of the second segment features a sky with abstract eyes in it --- very evocative of the coming Psychedelia, and the ghostly palace of the third segment seems a tribute to Dali or Ernst who were still  "Modern Artists" back then. The forth segment, "In a Cup of Tea", is a little oddity, an unfinished story tucked in an unfinished story. The second segment achieves a pleasurable chill and the third segment a certain grandeur. Even though I don't rate this film as highly as I once did, I recommend it.

No comments: