Tuesday, July 21, 2015

See You in My Dreams

Akira Kurosawa's Dreams (1990) is one of his last films, and one of the last we hadn't seen. It is literally a series of dreams, loosely linked by theme and characters. It has no plot (or 8 plots, one for each dream) and is very beautiful.

The first two dreams are from the point of view of a young boy. In the first, it is raining but the sun is out. His mother warns him that the foxes have their weddings in this weather, and if they see him outside, they will be mad. The key section is a long, slow wedding procession for fox-faced beings in formal kimono, to the accompaniment of Japanese court music. This music, along with the masks and slow, formalized movement, give a feeling of Noh theater to the dream.

The next dream involves the same boy (young Akira?) finding a whole set of living Japanese court dolls where the peach orchard used to be. When he proves to be sympathetic, they perform a slow, intricate dance - very formal, strikingly beautiful.

In rest of the dreams, our viewpoint character is grown up - a mountain climber, a soldier, or just a traveller. Some are nightmares, like the solider haunted by the ghosts of the men he lead to their deaths. In one, seven nuclear reactors explode behind Mt. Fuji - special effects by Ishiro Honda of Godzilla fame. Others are idylls, like the final gentle section about a village of waterwheels.

The one that I remember reading about is either the most beautiful or the silliest (or both). Our dreamer steps into the world of Vincent van Gogh, in fact, into his paintings. The mixtures of live action and impressionist painting is both beautiful and silly - possibly it was beyond the reach of Kurosawa-san's technique. It doesn't compare, for instance, to the living paintings in What Dreams May Come, but that is not really a good movie. But that's not the silliest part. The silliest part is that van Gogh, with bandaged ear and everything, is played by Martin Scorsese, New Yawk accent and all.

Still, couldn't someone dream they met van Gogh and he sounded just like Martin Scorsese? I've had stranger dreams.

We loved this movie, but since it doesn't have a plot, it must be considered "minor" Kurosawa. Still, that's more than good enough.

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