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Genre: Fantasy Drama (USA)
Overview: In this anthology film of vignettes, we explore some of director Akira Kurosawa's actual dreams, from childhood innocence, to the nightmares of war.
Having followed Kurosawa's career so closely, from reading his autobiography to watching as much of his oeuvre as possible chronologically, I understand Dreams better than most. Dreams is a very biographical and deeply personal look into one director's actual dreams, as told in short vignettes, films that seem to follow chronologically, given the protagonist's age in the tales.
The first short films has a young boy sneaking into the forest to spy on a wedding procession of foxes. Another shows an army officer being met by one of his dead soldiers, asking his captain if he has indeed truly died. Two other stories are about the horrors of nuclear war, one with mutated demons on mount Fuji, another with citizens running amok as explosions erupt and gas pours down the mountain.
The red one is plutonium-239. 10,000,000th of a gram causes cancer. The yellow one in strontium-90. It gets inside you and causes leukemia. The purple one is cesium-137. It affects reproduction. It causes mutations. It makes monstrosities. Man's stupidity is unbelievable. Radioactivity was invisible, and because of its danger, they coloured it. But that only lets you know which kind kills you. - Nuclear Plant Worker
Even one dream with Martin Scorsese playing a single-eared Vincent Van Gogh... nice touch. Another nice touch is that the first name of the actor who portrays Kurosawa's id is also Akira.
What Akira Kurosawa's Dreams delivers is a look into the fantastical, a display of often wordless, symbolic artistry that tell much of one man's perspective of Japanese culture and the history that has transpired in his lifetime, and how that expressed itself in his mind.
They're dreams, and though these dreams make more sense than most, they don't tell the story of the everyman, but for one such as myself, who decided to explore this man so deeply, it's almost like Dreams was specially made for me. Though not generally considered one of his best works, it's definitely his most introspective and his most different to date.
When they said a fox gettin' married, that's not exactly what I thought they meant...
Performance: 8 Cinematography: 9 Script: 7 Plot: 6 Mood: 7
Overall Rating: 74% (May Cause Some Confusion)
I will say however that this subject matter is certainly not for everyone. This is truly a piece ideal for those who've followed this man's works, who've read and understood about Kurosawa himself. Many scenes are telling truths about the man behind the lens, and out of proper context, it may just seem like a string of random dreams that had some interesting moments, though overall a film without any cohesion. Therefore, my advice is simple: do not make this your first Kurosawa, it's completely different than any of his oeuvre. Dreams is for those who know Kurosawa the man. These tales fill us in on his hopes and fears, and are very isolated from the common everyman tales we're used to in mainstream film.