Saturday, February 21, 2009

Day Fifteen: Akira Kurosawa's Dreams (1990) - Rank 4/5


The goal of most films, I believe, it to convey a story. There are very few which escape this mold, but I believe that "Dreams" is one of them. One might argue that each dream in the film (there are eight "dreams" which are short, twelve-minute vignettes) has a plot and each tells a unique story. However, I took viewing "Dreams" very much like I would listening to a friend recount his or her dream from the night before. It's about individual interpretation, and thankfully Kurosawa has a unique eye as a director to provide something beautiful to behold as well.

Some of the pieces within the film are gorgeous, yet their characters or brief tales fail to really strike home, such as Sunshine through the Rain (where a young boy goes against his mother's wishes and watches a fox's wedding) or Crows (a young art student is transported into a painting where he receives the sage advice of Vincent Van Gogh - an impressive cameo by Martin Scorsese). There are others with a great script, but they don't dazzle the eye as the others do, such as The Tunnel (a man is confronted by the ghosts of his dead platoon) and The Weeping Demon (a man finds himself in a post-apocalyptic world filled with oni demons and mutant dandelions).

There are two to me, though, that really stood out as being the best of both worlds and stayed with me long after the film's finish. "The Peach Orchard," which is centered around a young boy who is scolded for the actions of his family by a large group of living dolls. The spring is their time to revel in the falling blossoms of the peach trees and the boy's family razed their entire orchard. The dolls engage in a dance to resurrect one tree after the boys apology, and the sequence is outstandingly beautiful. The second was "Mount Fuji in Red." It was a terrifying nightmare about a nuclear holocaust that melts Mount Fuji, sends most of the people of Japan running over a cliff into the ocean, leaving only a few to die of radiation. I think this one stuck with me the most because of the scientist's strange analysis of how they were going to die based upon the color smoke they were breathing. The dialog he spouts out had the same disjointed logic much of my dreams do.

Knowing that each dream was an extension of Kurosawa's own visions gives the movie further depth, for you can notice trends in how the director might have viewed the world as he grew older, from his loves to his insecurities. You get the sense then that you're watching something very personal, adding to your appreciation. As a whole, "Dreams" is very much an "art film," in the sense that it is beautiful to behold and open to interpretation. While that quality is something that frustrates so many American viewers, I think it's a discipline far to rare today.

Watch the Trailer (or a reasonable facsimile)

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