With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Friday, October 15, 2010

ACF 730: Kobayashi's Kwaidan kicks off new film series at Japan Society tonight

(Kwaidan [Kaidan] © 1965 Toho Co., Ltd.)
Directed by Masaki Kobayashi
Friday, October 15, 2010 at 7:30 PM
Japan Society

Zen and Violence Unite in Japan Society's New Film Series
Zen & Its Opposite: Essential (& Turbulent) Japanese Art House

Timed with The Sound of One Hand: Painting and Calligraphy by Zen Master Hakuin (October 1, 2010–January 9, 2011), Japan Society's major exhibition of 17th century Zen paintings, the Zen & Its Opposite film series launches tonight, Friday, October 15, with Masaki Kobayashi’s Kwaidan at 7:30 pm. Another 4 films will be shown monthly through February 13, 2011.

Kwaidan (a.k.a. Ghost Stories) is one of several magnificent movies that Kobayashi (1916 - 1996) directed. Some other significant titles are Samurai Rebellion (1967), Harakiri (1962) and The Human Condition, an epic trilogy of which the first two parts were released in 1959 and the third in 1961. (These, like Kwaidan and the other films in the Zen & Its Opposite series, are available on DVD from Criterion, for you non-New Yorkers.)

Kwaidan is comprised of four stories based on the writings of Lafcadio Hearn. Of Greek and Irish ancestry, he came to the U.S. in 1869, but later moved to Japan, where he became a naturalized citizen in 1895 and changed his name to Yakumo Koizumi.

The four tales were filmed primarily on huge studio sets, which gave Kobayashi and his crew total control over lighting, which is exquisitely used to great effect. Many of the sets themselves are physically stunning in and of themselves.

Kwaidan won the Special Jury Prize at the 1965 Cannes Film Festival. It's a masterpiece and will be shown in its 161 minute Japanese version. (When released in the U.S., it was cut to 125 minutes. There also were versions just over 180 minutes long, but the additional 20 or so minutes of footage are no longer available.)

ACF Rating: 4 out of 4 stars. An absolute must-see.

So give yourself an early Halloween present and see Kwaidan tomorrow night at Japan Society. If you're not in the NY metro area, or just can't get there, buy the Criterion DVD or rent it from Netflix. But see this movie!

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