Criterion Prediction #45: Dreams, by Alexander Miller
Title: Dreams aka Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Cast: Akira Terao, Mieko Harada, Chishū Ryū, Martin Scorsese, Mitsunori Isaki
Synopsis: Eight stories inspired by the dreams of its creator – “Sunshine Through the Rain,” “The Peach Blossom Orchard,” “The Blizzard,” “The Tunnel,” “Crows,” “Mount Fuji in Red,” “The Weeping Demon,” and “Village of the Watermills” paint an engrossing visual biography.
Critique: Kurosawa’s already powerful visual sensibilities skyrocketed during this period and his 1990 film Dreams, with its florid color palette and personal flights of episodic imagination, is a perfectly rewarding and cathartic epilogue for one of cinema’s most accomplished artists. Dreams is a dual functioning title and synopsis. These are the dreams of Kurosawa. They aren’t a narrative accelerant or function of the story. There’s a story to every episode; some free flowing, others have the framework of a delineated short film – Dreams; an informal biography of an (at the time) living legend is revealing, whimsical, scary, adventurous and beautiful. Kurosawa’s disarming emotional exposition opens a door to his anxieties, fears, and inspirations, concluding with a reconciliation of death as the film chronologically charts the various touchstones throughout his life. The unspoken trepidations of existence are conveyed through delicately composed and uncomplicated expressive beats; the underlying sense of fear is juxtaposed in scenes of rare beauty even when the film is at its bleakest. Criticisms range from entry to entry but they all have a strong suit of their own – “Sunshine through the Rain” and “The Peach Blossom Orchard” channel the bewildering and intimidating nature of childhood. “The Blizzard” feels like an unfinished screenplay from the director’s Dersu Uzala era. The mid-section veers into borderline horror territory with “The Tunnel,” an ode to Van Gogh (Scorsese stands out a bit as the troubled artist) in “Crows,” and an unnerving exploration of nuclear fallout with “Mt. Fuji in Red” and “The Weeping Demon.” We end on a tranquil note when we reach “Village of Watermills,” a peaceful epitaph perhaps exceeding the director’s final feature, Madadayo, in regards to being a cathartic farewell. The surrogate “dreamer” or “I” is more or less a functionary component, these are Kurosawa’s dreams, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to slack on being a structured storyteller.
Why it Belongs in the Collection: As a Criterion release, this title is a no-brainer; the first reason is that Dreams is one Kurosawa’s best later era films after Ran and Kagemusha. Although this section is usually reserved for nitpicking first generation DVD’s, I will admit that the Warner Bros. release of this movie still looks great. Despite that, Criterion has posted something of a minor revelation regarding Shoji Ueda (the film’s cinematographer) supervising the color correction as he’s working from the directors hand drawn storyboards in order to be faithful to Kurosawa’s vision. Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams is a movie long deserving of a spine number and, judging by the posts online, it seems like we won’t have to wait much longer.