OUT OF COMPETITION
Kaidan. Strange Stories of Japanese Ghosts
France, 2023, 95’, Japanese, English
Directed by: Yves Montmayeur
Cast: Kurosawa Kiyoshi, Shimizu Takashi, Nakata Hideo, Ito Junji, Umezu Kazuo, Maro Akaji, Inoo Rie, Tsuruta Norio
Documentarian Yves Montmayeur returns to the Far East Film Festival (Citizen Kitano, FEFF 2021) with his latest Asian cinephilia project Kaidan. Strange Stories of Japanese Ghosts. Montmayeur’s film opens with a bookish Japanese woman walking through an abandoned house in the middle of nowhere, with a flashlight in one hand and a camera in the other. We soon discover that she is a photographer and calligrapher, who has visited this haunted hotspot, as she calmly relays ghostly incidents that have been previously reported. It’s a great starting off point for the exploration of the spirit world as portrayed in the height of the J-horror era of the late ‘90s that truly kicked off with Kurosawa Kiyoshi’s Cure and Nakata Hideo’s Ring, bringing J-Horror to the forefront of international genre cinema, introducing horror maestros like Kurosawa and Nakata, but also Shimizu Takashi of Ju-on: The Grudge fame, becoming a major IP farm for Hollywood remakes.
The classical image of the Japanese tormented female in her ragged kimono and long, wet black hair that covers her face is a totem of Japanese ghosts, going back to ancient paintings, both kabuki and butoh theatre, to the 20th century with the dawn of silent movies through the ‘60s and ‘70s with seminal films Kwaidan (Kobayashi Masaki) and Onibaba (Shindo Kaneto), anime and manga (a visit to famed horror manga artist Umezu Kazuo’s house is a highlight) to the height of direct-to-video ghost documentaries of the VHS era. Ghost stories permeated Japanese popular culture and are interdisciplinary and are universally accepted as a fact of existence. Montmayeur’s approach is novel in that it is not a encyclopedia nor does it follow a linear history of the genre, but rather interweaves performance artists, historians, and filmmakers with their own fictional works and actual urban legends in vivid, cryptic detail.
Yves Montmayeur (1963, France) started his career in 1993, as a film critic for several magazines. He also worked as a film journalist for television programmes and in 1998 he started directing reportages and special film programmes. He continued in this vein as the director of documentaries about Miike Takashi and Michael Haneke, among others.
2004 – Electric Yakuza: Go to Hell!
2005 – Ghibli and the Miyazaki Mystery
2005 – The Angry Men of Korean Cinema
2006 – In the Mood for Doyle
2009 – Yakuza Eiga
2011 – Into the Pleasure Dome of Japanese Erotic Cinema
2015 – The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Maddin
2021 – Citizen Kitano
2023 – Kaidan. Strange Stories of Japanese Ghosts