An anthology comprised of eight unrelated stories based on Kurosawas actual dreams, the 1990 work plays like a love letter not to sleepy time, but to the marvel of the medium of movies. How this was not nominated for Best Foreign Language Film by the Academy Awards is an absolute head-scratcher nay, a crime. Its one of the most enjoyable foreign films Ive ever had the pleasure to see. Don't look for conventional closure or surprise endings some segments just fade to an abrupt exit, as real dreams are wont to do.
In Sunshine Through the Rain, from which the pictures striking poster images is culled, a young boy walking in the forest experiences visions of a musical procession. But as the members draw closer, one notices their faces arent quite human. Similarly, the next segment, The Peach Orchard, has a child run into spirits outside not the wispy, transparent ghosts as we would think, but painted faces in elegant robes. These spirits then perform a colorful, choreographed dance on four levels of land before disappearing.
With The Blizzard, Dreams starts to move into Kwaidan territory, as a quartet of ice pickers in a heavy snowstorm have trouble moving, breathing and seeing, save for a woman who shouldnt couldnt actually be there. In The Tunnel, a man walking through just that comes across a snarling red dog, then an army of blue soldiers.
Crows may be the most famous segment in America, if only for having the one name actor in the film. A man goes looking for Vincent van Gogh by jumping into one of his paintings. Eventually, he happens upon the artist (director Martin Scorsese, unrecognizable but for his voice) painting in a field. Accompanied by an outstanding Chopin number, our protagonist takes a visual trip through many van Gogh works, and while the effects may be primitive by todays standards, the result is joyous.
Influenced by equal parts Hiroshima and Godzilla, Mount Fuji in Red is a slightly pulpy disaster tale in medias res as the title volcano erupts, causing the explosion of half a dozen atomic reactors and chaos among untold residents. In the aftermath, survivors try in vain to shield themselves from harmful clouds of plutonium-239, strontium-90 and cesium-137.
The Weeping Demon could be a direct sequel to Fuji, as a journeyman meets a former human, now a demon with one horn who laments that his field of flowers has turned into a desert. When flowers are seen again, theyre dandelions, but overgrown to the point that people are the size of bugs.
Finally, Village of the Watermills brings a peaceful end to the proceedings, as a young man visits a quiet village with no electricity. Explains the elder resident, "We try to live the way man used to. It is a natural life."
Steeped if not outright saturated in Japanese culture, Dreams is by no means inaccessible, unless viewers are just dead-set against reading subtitles. If so, thats their loss, because this is one of the most visually striking films I've ever seen utterly, heart-crushingly beautiful. The only downfall to Warner Archive release is that its not on Blu-ray, where its colorful palette would be appreciated best. This is another masterpiece from a man who had more this his fair share, from Seven Samurai to The Hidden Fortress, Rashomon to Ran. Rod Lott