I'm thankful Kurosawa
had a long
and full life and was able to continue making films after RAN. However,
this doesn't mean I have to love DREAMS, the first of Kurosawa's
distinctively introspective films.
Dressed up with
photography and lovely effects courtesy of George Lucas's Industrial
Light and Magic, DREAMS is still a a self-indulgent collection of
simplistic sermons from Kurosawa, disguised as eight "dreams" he
remembers from various stages of his life. Yes, at his age,
Kurosawa had earned the right to be self-indulgent, but it does not
for an entertaining or even enlightening movie. Over and over
are told that man is destroying nature, nuclear power is bad and death
is inevitable. I expect something a bit more mystical and
magical and less politically didactic in a film called DREAMS.
episodes rarely have dreamlike qualities, and the ones that resemble
nightmares are never scary. With the
exception of the Ice Queen in the otherwise tedious "The
approaches the horrifying visions of Kurosawa's past
films; the Spirit of the Forest from THRONE OF BLOOD, the medium
and the zombie-like heroin addicts from HIGH AND LOW were all
more frightening than almost any of the "horrific" visions in
DREAMS. The apocalyptic segment called "Mt. Fuji in Red"
with a marvelous, purposely cheesy take on the mass panic of Japanese monster
Honda, mastermind of those films, was a creative consultant on DREAMS)
but almost immediately devolves into one
character's textbook lecture on the effects of different types of
radioactivity. In this and other episodes, Kurosawa's
what you might expect from a fifth-grade presentation on Earth
Day. There is also a distinct lack of the humor often
found in Kurosawa's films. The funniest things can happen in
dreams, but you wouldn't know it from this film.
The open-ended first episode, about a boy who witnesses a mystical wedding ceremony of foxes (actors dressed in Nōh-like makeup) is, in hindsight, the most dreamlike of all the segments, and the set design, cinematography and special effects of the episode titled "The Crows", about a young artist who literally loses himself in Vincent van Gogh's paintings, are amazing. Mitsunuri Asaki plays the adult stand-in for Kurosawa, in several of the episodes and acquits himself nicely, though he cannot do anything with Kurosawa's simplistic dialogue.
Kurosawa's dreamlike visions work best when surrounded by a solid story. In DREAMS, there is no story, only visions, and they are not enough to make this a good film. - JB