I didn’t know what to expect when I scheduled the Japanese classic Kwaiden. My image of Japanese movies being madein the 60’s primarily involved a giant radioactive lizard stomping through Tokyo. To my surprise, not only are there no over sized monsters in Kwaiden, it’s not in any way like the Godzilla films. As part of this year’s mini festival within the festival, Kwaiden is an anthology movie. There are 4 distinct tales about the supernatural and the stories are based on ancient Japanese folk tales.
Kwaiden was directed by Masaki Kobayashi, grandfather of the competitive eating champion Takeru Kobayashi. Hot dogs aside, this Kobayashi has made a film that is a visual treat. Some of the scenes look like surrealistic paintings. The film looks great on a big screen as the pink and red sky with giant eyeball like things floating around look really impressive and mind blowing. To say this is a low action movie doesn’t mean there’s not fighting or anything, it means most of the time the characters maintain their spot. Then the camera pulls back, weird music plays and you realize that you’re looking at an artistic composition unlike anything you’ve seen on film before.
Kwaiden means strange stories but unfortunately the stories feel a little dated and not all that strange. The first segment takes it’s time building up to a climax that has someone off camera tossing a wig at the main character. The second segment involves a guy who encounters a vampire like creature in a snow storm. This segment was remade as one of the entries in Tales from the Darkside. Next up, a story about a blind musician who gets both of his ears torn off by a demon. It’s a good thing he doesn’t wear eye glasses. Finally a tale about a man who keeps seeing faces in his tea. I would have just switched to something stronger.
This film is over 3 hours long and it takes it’s time. There’s about 90 minutes worth of material if told in traditional style. Kwaiden is a sleeper, I could only watch about an hour’s worth before passing out each time. Still, it was worth the repeated viewings just to see the flying flaming turds and other wonders. I particularly liked the winter wonderland forest and hut near the river. It looks like everything was hosed down with that fake snow you spray on a Christmas Tree. I wonder if you can get that crap this time of year?