Sunday, January 3, 2016

Kwaidan (Criterion Collection Blu-ray)

My first experience with Kwaidan was distinctly bad. I was tired. The movie is exceptionally long with an anthology style format that carries out some long, traditional ghost/supernatural stories that vary from frightening to thought provoking. You really need to prepare for this movie; you need to respect it and give it its time. It doesn’t hurt reading about it up front to better under the context of the film and the importance within the Horror genre. I watched it for the first time as part of the Fangoria 300 Challenge: I was watching all of the 300 choices for top Horror movies as dictated by issue 300 of Fangoria as chosen by the Fango staff. I had been watching movie after movie, picking apart the cumbersome list. Kwaidan came toward the end during a burn out period to boot.

Now simply reading what Fango put up about this classic Japanese Horror picture certainly set the bar high, but I wasn’t prepared for it. Criterion Collection gave me a second chance with a healthy release built for newbies such as myself as well as seasoned Japanese fans. This release was exactly what this guy needed to understand the movie, and to wash the bad taste out of my mouth. I gave this movie unfair marks my first watch out. We've corrected that here.

The release is all Criterion. Beautiful packaging and transfer. It looks tremendous, clean with nice black levels. The colors are beautiful and water color, dream like and subtle as they are supposed to be. The last time I watched it, I was working with a release that wasn’t nearly this pretty. The packaging and new artwork is great, preserving the look and feel of the picture. The essay included is a must read; Horror fans aren’t always ready to keep an open mind and Kwaidan demands that. Enter Geoffrey O’Brien to help you understand the release better.

I stand by my initial comment that Kwaidan is a long movie. It’s slow and subtle.You truly have to take your time, take appropriate breaks and enjoy the visually stunning film work. Don’t rush through this one.. Savor each part. Each story is a ghostly/demonic in nature, but this isn’t the typical haunted house tale from the States.It’s heavily stylized with traditional Japanese values represented. It’s an adjustment for a guy like me who can be more of a “meat and potatoes” Horror guy.Just remember that you can watch movies to be entertained or you can watch them from a scholarly, mind broadening perspective.

You can order Kwaidan now from Criterion. Grow as a Horror fan or help to complete your collection.

From Criterion:

After more than a decade of sober political dramas and social-minded period pieces, the great Japanese director Masaki Kobayashi (The Human Condition) shifted gears dramatically for this rapturously stylized quartet of ghost stories. Featuring colorfully surreal sets and luminous cinematography, these haunting tales of demonic comeuppance and spiritual trials, adapted from writer Lafcadio Hearn’s collections of Japanese folklore, are existentially frightening and meticulously crafted. This version of Kwaidan is the original three-hour cut, never before released in the United States.

1965 • 181 minutes • Color • Monaural • In Japanese with English subtitles • 2.35:1 aspect ratio

• New 2K digital restoration of director Masaki Kobayashi’s original cut, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
• Audio commentary by film historian Stephen Prince
• Interview from 1993 with Kobayashi, conducted by filmmaker Masahiro Shinoda
• New interview with assistant director Kiyoshi Ogasawara
• New piece about author Lafcadio Hearn, on whose versions of Japanese folk tales Kwaidan is based
• Trailers
• New English subtitle translation
• PLUS: An essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien

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