KWAIDAN (Masaki Kobayashi, 1964)
Museum of the Moving Image
35th Ave. at 36th St., Astoria
Sunday, May 24, $12, 6:00
Series runs through May 24
The Museum of the Moving Image series “Portraying the Human Condition: The Films of Masaki Kobayashi and Tatsuya Nakadai” comes to a sensational conclusion on May 24 with a 2:00 screening of Harakiri, with the eighty-two-year-old Nakadai on hand to discuss the work, and then, at 6:00, a presentation of the mesmerizing Kwaidan. In the latter film, based on folkloric tales by Lafcadio Hearn, aka Koizumi Yakumo, Kobayashi (The Human Condition, Samurai Rebellion) paints four marvelous ghost stories, each one with a unique look and feel. In “The Black Hair,” a samurai (Rentaro Mikuni) regrets his choice of leaving his true love for societal advancement. Yuki (Keiko Kishi) is a harbinger of doom for a woodcutter (Nakadai) in “The Woman of the Snow.” Hoichi (Katsuo Nakamura) must have his entire body covered in prayer in “Hoichi, the Earless.” And Kannai (Kanemon Nakamura) finds a creepy face staring back at him in “In a Cup of Tea.” The four films subtly, and not so subtly, explore such concepts as greed and envy, love and loss, and the art of storytelling itself. Winner of the Special Jury Prize at Cannes, Kwaidan is one of the greatest ghost story films ever made, a quartet of chilling existential tales that will get under your skin and into your brain. The score was composed by Tōru Takemitsu, who said of the film, “I wanted to create an atmosphere of terror.” He succeeded.