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Winner of the Special Jury Prize at Cannes, Masaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan features four nightmarish tales adapted from Lafcadio Hearn's classic Japanese ghost stories. This lavish, 'scope production drew extensively on Kobayashi's own training as a student of painting and fine arts.
For the first time in the West, The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present the complete 183-minute original Japanese cut. Its poetic expression is said to be unmatched in all of Japanese cinema; breathtakingly photographed on handpainted sets, the film is at once a Japanese miniature writ large, and an abstract wash of luminescent colours that seem to come from another world. An electronic soundtrack by avant-garde composer Toru Takemitsu plays hauntingly with the natural sounds - crickets, rain, the cracking of wood, the loud silence of snow. Yet the stories - four of Hearn's best known ghostly tales - strangely contradict this plastic splendour in their simple, aching humanity; all are tales of mortals caught by forces beyond their comprehension when the supernatural world intervenes in their lives. One of the most memorable of these is "Hoichi, the Earless", in which a blind young monk is compelled by the ghosts of a famous battle to retell their story, over and over again as they gather every night in an abandoned graveyard.
Starring Tatsuya Nakadai, this complete print of Kwaidan - including 21 minutes of footage never before released to Western audiences - also includes "The Snow Maiden," the most eerily atmospheric of the tales in which a woodcutter marries a woman whose true calling is to wander, enveloped in swirling snowflakes, bringing death to mortals...