Kwaidan

After more than a decade of sober political dramas and socially minded period pieces, the great Japanese director Masaki Kobayashi 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.

Film Info

Special Features

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

New cover by Sean Freeman

Purchase Options

Special Features

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

New cover by Sean Freeman

Kwaidan
Cast
Rentaro Mikuni
Samurai
Michiyo Aratama
First wife
Misako Watanabe
Second wife
Tatsuya Nakadai
Minokichi
Keiko Kishi
Woman of the Snow/Yuki
Jun Hamamura
Mosaku
Yuko Mochizuki
Minokichi’s mother
Katsuo Nakamura
Hoichi
Tetsuro Tanba
Samurai
Takashi Shimura
Priest
Kunie Tanaka
Yasaku
Kanemon Nakamura
Kannai
Noboru Nakaya
Heinai
Osamu Takizawa
The writer
Haruko Sugimura
The writer’s wife
Ganjiro Nakamura
Publisher
Credits
Director
Masaki Kobayashi
Producer
Shigeru Wakatsuki
Screenplay
Yoko Mizuki
Based on stories by
Lafcadio Hearn
Cinematography
Yoshio Miyajima
Music and sound design
Toru Takemitsu
Editor
Hisashi Sagara
Sound recordist
Hideo Nishizaki
Art director
Shigemasa Toda
Lighting
Akira Aomatsu

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Toru Takemitsu

Composer

Toru Takemitsu
Toru Takemitsu

Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu, known to Western listeners predominantly as the man behind the music in such iconic movies as Woman in the Dunes and Ran, was an acclaimed classical composer and music theorist well before he became one of his country’s most reliably brilliant scorers of film. A noted musical avant-gardist in midcentury Japanese intellectual circles, as influenced by jazz as by Debussy, Takemitsu first turned to feature film composing when he was commissioned (along with Masaru Sato) to write the hip, twangy-guitar-inflected score for the Ko Nakahira youth flick Crazed Fruit (1956). It wasn’t until a few years later, though, when his friend Hiroshi Teshigahara asked him to score Teshigahara’s short debut film, José Torres (1959), that Takemitsu’s career in movies truly began. The deeply sympathetic working relationship that they discovered on that project resulted in Takemitsu’s providing the haunting, instrumentally jarring themes for virtually all of Teshigahara’s subsequent output (“He was always more than a composer,” Teshigahara would recall. “He involved himself so thoroughly in every aspect of a film—script, casting, location shooting, editing, and total sound design”). Takemitsu became a go-to guy for many other major Japanese filmmakers as well, including Masaki Kobayashi (Harakiri), Akira Kurosawa (Dodes’ka-den), and Nagisa Oshima (Empire of Passion); his themes remain some of the most beautiful, spectral music ever written for the screen.