Making Kwaidan, director Masaki Kobayashi had his hands full. Tackling major themes such as justice, the importance of history and the ever-changing relationship between men and women in one two-hour anthology of four unrelated stories is certainly ambitious enough. To then incorporate traditional Japanese visual arts, drama, cinema, myth and dreams into it would be a challenge for any talented director. But thankfully, Kobayashi was up to the task. The four pieces of Kwaidan, Japanese for ghost story, are based on Japanese folk tales. There’s The Woman of the Snow, which examines the seduction of denial; Hoichi the Earless, in which a musician/monk finds himself singing to the ghosts of the characters in his song; The Black Hair, in which a man returns to his wife after he divorces her; and In a Cup of Tea, in which a warrior sees someone else’s reflection in his tea. The 1964 film is considered one of the best by Kobayashi and won the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.


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