Kwaidan – 怪談 Kaidan, literally “ghost stories” – is a 1964 Japanese anthology horror feature film produced by Toho and directed by Masaki Kobayashi. It is based on four stories from Lafcadio Hearn’s collections of Japanese folk tales, mainly Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things, for which it is named.
The movie stars Rentarō Mikuni, Keiko Kishi, Michiyo Aratama, Misako Watanabe and Tatsuya Nakadai.
On October 20, 2015, The Criterion Collection released Kwaidan in the US on Blu-ray.
“The Black Hair” (黒髪 Kurokami) is about an impoverished swordsman who divorces his wife, a weaver, for a woman of a wealthy family to attain greater social status. He takes his new wife to his new position as a district governor. However, the swordsman’s second marriage proved to be unhappy. His second wife being callous and shallow, the swordsman regrets leaving his more devoted ex-wife.
“The Woman of the Snow” (雪女 Yukionna) – In the Musashi Providence, a woodcutter named Minokichi takes refuge in a fisherman’s hut during a snow storm alongside his mentor Mosaku. When Minokichi comes to, he finds Mosaku killed by a Yuki-onna before she sees him.
“Hoichi the Earless” (耳無芳一の話 Miminashi Hōichi no Hanashi) depicts the folkloric tale of Hoichi the Earless, a blind musician, or biwa hoshi, whose specialty is singing The Tale of the Heike, about the Battle of Dan-no-ura, fought between the Taira and Minamoto clans during the last phase of the Genpei War…
“In a Cup of Tea” (茶碗の中 Chawan no Naka) is about a writer who is anticipating a visit from the publisher, keeps seeing faces in a cup of tea.
“The first episode builds an effective mood through its elliptical action and long, slow tracks through empty rooms, but this 1965 film soon levels off into academic stylization.” David Kehr, Chicago Reader
“It can still hold its own against the new generation of horror films still sourcing it. Well worth a look.” Kim Newman, Empire
“Visually beautiful and with some cool special effects, this is a quartet of Japenese horror ghost stories that have very few scares, although there is the odd frisson of eeriness in a couple of them.” Film4
“Kobayashi’s stylised use of colour is more symbolic than naturalistic, and coupled with the avant-garde electronic score by Toru Takemitsu, which also incorporates sampled natural sounds, it generates both a haunting atmosphere and some subtle supernatural chills.” Nigel Floyd, Time Out
” … massive in scope and budget, the deliberately paced — but not boring — film is nothing short of a truly epic and incredibly colorful undertaking. Vision, risk, and raw artistry abound.” Twitch