Sunday, September 04, 2005
We were able to catch the second feature which started at 5 pm: Yotsuya Kaidan (1959) a tragedy about love, misplaced trust, and greed. Set in the middle ages it tells the story of a masterless samurai, Iemon (Shigeru Amachi) married to the beautiful and patient, Iwa (Kazuko Wakasugi) who comes from an impoverished family. By force of circumstance he met the young and beautiful but aggressively flirty daughter of the village prefect. Although Iemon remained steadfast to his convictions and warded off all her charms, the promise of a job if he agrees to marry the prefects daughter began to eat him up from the inside. Though he maintained that he was still married and cannot leave his wife, he spends a lot of his time in the girl's chambers as a means of compromise. When the girl finally proposes marriage the prefect consulted his advisers on what to do. They told him that he should either dig up dirt from the woman's past or come up with something to make Iemon decide to leave her. Iemon's close servant finally came up with a solution: poison her to make her so ugly his master wouldn't have any second thoughts on leaving her.
Then there's also this subplot about Iwa's childhood servant falling in love with her and started professing his feelings when he couldn't take anymore his master's treatment on Iwa. When Iemon's men learned about this they killed the servant and trumped up charges against the two for committing adultery. By the time Iemon came home to confront his wife about this, the poison had already taken effect. Iwa's face was disfigured and Iemon couldn't bear to look at her. Iwa accidentally fell on Iemon's sword while they were struggling with each other. This is where the horror begins when Iwa's ghost comes back to exact revenge on their unjust treatment of her. Each and everyone of those involved in her death died violent and mysterious deaths. All except Iemon of course, especially when he learned about the plot to drive him to divorce his wife. He took it upon himself to hack the others with his sword until he himself died from his wounds.
I think this one's based on a true story since Iwa's (or Oiwa) grave is a well known tourist spot in Japan. The storytelling's a bit dragging (we had two groups walking out of the cinema) and you'll need to sit through what seems at first to be a cheesy drama before the real action begins.
After having an early dinner downstairs we went back to watch the 8 pm showing of Kwaidan (1965) which features four short stories with four different treatments by the same director (I very much like the images accompanying the opening credits, very artsy). The stories were based on one of the writings of Lafcardio Hearn (1850-1904) an Irish immigrant to Japan in the late 19th century. This film I learned later, made a great deal of influence over the creation of the Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983).
The first story, The Black Hair (Kurokami), was about another masterless samurai who left his poor crying wife simply because he couldn't take their being poor anymore. So he went and offered his services to the prefect in the next town. He also married his vain daughter as part of those services. But life couldn't be more hellish for him as he constantly remembered his poor wife who was always patient and loving towards him, very much the opposite of his new wife. There wasn't a day (or night) when he didn't think about her, working very hard on her loom weaving for a living.
When ten years has passed he went back to his old house (at night, no less) to find it almost a total wreck. He would have turned back if he didn't see the candlelight in their old room. Rushing inside to find his wife hard at work on the loom and very much unchanged even throughout the years, each of them begged for each other's forgiveness. Then they retired for the night with made him very happy. But by morning, things have been revealed for what they really were. The room was old, the floor was caving in, his wife dead for a long time, and him slowly aging and dying himself as he remembers his pledge the night before to be with her for a long, long time.
The second story, The Woman of the Snow (Yuki-onna), is a familiar one as I've read many years ago in one the House of Mystery comic books we had lying around. This one's about a snow vampire that fell in love with a woodcutter that would have been a victim if she hadn't fallen in love with him. She spared his life for a condition that he wouldn't speak of this incident of the rest of his life. She later came to regret this decision many years later. Third story titled, Hoichi the Earless (Miminashi Houichi no hanashi), is one of the best of the bunch and I think it's best that you read the story yourself instead of me recounting it. The last one, In A Cup of Tea (Chawan no naka), is a strange tale about a theory why horror stories from the Edo period of Japan remained unfinished. It has a short story in itself which makes for a weird ending altogether. The only thing I hated about this entire movie experience was the presence of hecklers who couldn't keep their opinions to themselves. I felt bad about this all the more when I saw a couple of Japanese girls outside the theater talking about the movie. Man, I hope some of those people could have shown a lot more respect for other cultures. Sure it's free but that doesn't give one the license to laugh at those you don't understand. Anyway links are provided if you want to watch each story for free.