Archive for May 1990

Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams

May 11, 1990

Kurosawa was probably the only filmmaker who could get away with a pastiche movie like this (can you imagine paying to see Ron Howard’s Dreams?), but, man, I wish it were better. The movie, an eight-part trance, is beautiful but disconnected. The first two segments, “Sunshine Through the Rain” and “The Peach Orchard,” seem to be about Kurosawa’s obsession with formations of costumed people. “The Blizzard,” which got most of the attention, is a stark, silent vision of a snow fairy’s rescue of a mountaineer. Anyone could have directed the pointless “The Tunnel,” about a soldier who encounters the spirits of a dead platoon (once again, Kurosawa loves that formation of blue-faced army men). Martin Scorsese enjoys himself as Van Gogh in “Crows.” In “Mount Fuji in Red” and its companion “The Weeping Demon,” Kurosawa ascends his pulpit and denounces mankind’s destruction of the planet; in the final installment, “Village of the Windmills,” he proposes an idyllic alternative to our rapaciousness. When exactly did Kurosawa turn into Woodsy Owl? Saying a Kurosawa film looks great is like saying Mozart sounds great. But Kurosawa often points the camera at nothing and holds it there; other times, he cuts away from images we want more of. The movie obviously meant more to him than it could mean to us, and there is pleasure in watching him flex the muscles he hadn’t gotten to use much in the last twenty-odd years of his career. But where is Kurosawa the great storyteller? After this, Kurosawa made two more films, Rhapsody in August and Madadayo.