movie film review | chris tookey

Dreams / Akira Kurosawa's Dreams

  Dreams  / Akira Kurosawa's Dreams Review
Tookey's Rating
5 /10
Average Rating
5.89 /10
Chishu Ryu, Mieko Harada, Mitsuko Baisho
Full Cast >

Directed by: Akira Kurosawa
Written by: Akira Kurosawa

Released: 1990
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 120

Eight surreal, dreamlike episodes: four of them pessimistic about the future of humanity, four of them optimistic.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Like all of the great Japanese director's films, Dreams is lovely to look at; and his painterly use of colour is as exquisite as ever. Together, the eight episodes act as a somewhat self-conscious coda to Kurosawa's life. In Crows , he celebrates the individualism and vitality of western painting, and of Van Gogh in particular: an affectionate, almost naive commemoration of the way he has been influenced by western art, both as a director and - in his early years - as a commercial artist.

Unfortunately, most of the other episodes are not so much dreams as tracts - about nuclear power, the futility of war and the ecology of the planet. The Peach Orchard, in which a small boy weeps for some peach trees which have been cut down, is so didactic that it might more accurately be entitled The Preach Orchard .

The most embarrassing of the episodes is the final one, Village of the Watermills , where a 103 year-old man (who looks as if he might be related to Yoda of The Empire Strikes Back ) Shangri-laboriously sermonises about a "natural" way of life. Kurosawa here turns his back on civilization: inventors "only invent things that in the end make people unhappy." Such as film? Trees obligingly fall down in order to provide fuel. The villagers are all good, and spend their time doing the Japanese equivalent of Morris-dancing, which presumably is Honda-dancing.

It may be tempting to blame the simplistic philosophising of the film on Steven Spielberg's contribution as Executive Producer; but there has, in fact, always been a pedagogic strain which has run through Kurosawa's work.

Kurosawa's apocalyptic vision of nuclear disaster in one episode, Mount Fuji In Red, is an echo of his no less didactic film I Live In Fear (1955), which was about the risk of atomic warfare. His depiction of a post-holocaust Hell, in The Weeping Demon, owes much to Dodes'kaden (1970), his depressing film adapted from Gorky's The Lower Depths , of a shanty-town whose inhabitants were parasites upon a rubbish dump. In another episode, "The Blizzard", he reprises in a more one-dimensional form the physical hardships which his hero endured in Derzu Uzala (1975), and again uses fighting the natural elements as a metaphor for life.

Even a second-rate Kurosawa movie is more beautiful than practically any other film of the year; and perhaps at the age of 80 Kurosawa feels entitled to pass on his thoughts in a more straightforward and portentous way than hitherto. But, given the tiresome banality of those thoughts, I rather wish he hadn't.

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