1964 Japanese drama anthology

Rating: 18/20

Plot: Four mildly horrific ghost stories with suggested necrophilia, ghostophilia, a musician playing for an audience of ghosts, and a guy who sees faces in his tea.

I hesitate to call this a horror movie because it isn't scary at all. It creeps up on you and makes you feel uneasy, but it's not really a horror movie. It is one of the most shockingly beautiful movies you'll ever see. I've seen a lot of movies, but I can't recall seeing a movie that was like this. I suppose you could compare it to other Japanese horror movies, but it's really doesn't have any true peers. The four stories are sort of like minimalist Twilight Zone episodes that are a little more philosophically weighty. The stories are told deliberately, and most of the time, you can map it all out in your head long before its fully developed. There's a weirdness, I'd even say an otherworldliness, to the stories. They're simple stories, all involving ghosts, but there's this intensity to each of them. Part of that is the pacing. Director Masaki Kobayashi gives his audience plenty of space to work with, probably enough space to make a lot of Western viewers uncomfortable. Another part of it is the visuals, especially the color. There's a staginess to a lot of the backgrounds--one story even has what appear to be blue eyes painted in the sky--with some scenes almost appearing like high-quality outsider art. There are barely any shots in this 3+ hour movie that you couldn't frame and hang in a museum. There are colors that don't even seem like they belong in our world; you want to grab them from the screen and throw them around where you might see them every day. They're images born from dreams and images that can inspire more dreams. You'll see things in this movie that you've never seen in a movie before.

The score is by Toru Takemitsu, and it perfectly compliments the expressionistic imagery. It's hauntingly avant-garde.

This would also be a candidate for that museum movie list I referenced one blog entry ago. It's like a big beautiful poem of a movie.

This was my Criterion pick for my brother and me. I don't know what the next one is.

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