on October 13, 2015
I received the CD on the date I was advised I would get it. It was in excellent condition. I believe there were two sound versions; one the stories had drum music, and the other version was modified to suit western audiences - that I can recall. I would have preferred the drum music version.
on October 20, 2003
I read & heard so much about Akira's last masterpiece. I watched his earlier offering in the form of "Ran" & many of my friends told me that "Dreams" was heaps better as it's a more personal & heart-felt works of the Director. Compounded by the fact that this is also Akira's last work, I told myself that this is a must-have collector's item. When I watched this movie, I could understand why Steven Spielberg & Martin Scorcese liked Akira's work so much for its subtle & abstracted messages that screamed out quietly "Humanity". All the short stories were beautifully taken & at times, I would gaze at them with bewilderment. At times, the scenes seemed to drag on forever but perhaps, that's Akira's intention to captivate our attention through the protracted silence with anticipation. I found the experience exhilarating & puzzling at the same time. The only downside of this movie would be that the final four short stories all talked about the same topic, about our callous nature that eventually destroyed nature & civilisation. Furthermore, I questioned Akira's idea of using the same actor for different short stories. It's quite interesting to see Martin playing the part of Van Gogh instead of directing a movie. All I can say is that watch this movie with an open-mind. For visual treat, don't miss this but if you expect a fast pace & direct movie, you would be disappointed. A definite must-see for Akira's fan!
on June 12, 2004
This is perhaps a tough film to review because it is highly personal in nature, being composed of the dreams of its author; however, being highly personal does not mean it lacks universality, in fact quite the contrary. Akira Kurosawa is widely recognised as one of the greatest film makers of the twentieth century, i.e. in film-making history. He himself described this film - and I paraphrase from memory - as the film he had always wanted to make, his ultimate and best film. I do not believe that this is because the particular story-lines in the film were so important but because using the medium of dreams, Kurosawa was able to delve into a level of storytelling far deeper than much of his previous work and explore further subtleties of texture, nuance, psychology, colour, mood and so on. That said, the themes and stories on the surface are of interest because they evoke quintessentially Japanese pre and post war issues, also the perceptions of childhood, of adulthood, of facing death, of nostalgia. However, using the medium of a dream, Kurosawa can penetrate deep into the heart of each vignette to give us unsurpassably lovely and profound entries into the heart of particular moods, for ultimately this is what each story is: a very profound, almost sub-consciously- inhabited mood piece. Both in esoteric buddhism and Shinto, with both of which Kurosawa was culturally familiar to say the least, moods can be regarded as the gateway into the central channel of enlightenment; in other words, rather than avoid feelings and passions in order to engender peace or purity, instead you dive into their turbulent waves to thereby enter the deeper, silent ocean of awareness beneath. This he does beautifully with each piece, and in fact once you connect with this dynamic, many of the stories lay open to fuller enjoyment, like a main course served up at a banquet. In nearly every piece there is an encounter with a world beyond the immediately perceived one, and yet linked in feeling, in mood, in terms of season, colour, surrounding, context and so on. And then the 'deity' of that particular landscape or situation emerges, either as the gods and goddesses of the peach tree orchard, the foxes in the forest, van Gogh, the ice storm deities or whatever, the deity being the quintessential expression of the mood freed from any burdens of being bound to everyday normalcy, function or timeframe - a pure expression. In essence, this film is a study - or teaching - in the union of awareness and emotion; as such it is incredibly precise, playful, artistic and profound. I urge anyone who has not seen it to do so. It is unquestionably one of the greatest masterpieces of cinematic art in history and will remain so for centuries, I suspect, long after many others have faded from memory.
on June 4, 2004
In just eight "dreams," Akira Kurosawa managed to capture my attention and, most importantly, my heart. These many stories, some on the personal level individually and some on the personal level culturally, continue to evoke thought and emotion the whole way.
Amazingly, I can see these dreams in sections themselves. The first two, "Sunshine Through the Rain" and "The Peach Orchard" both involve a young Kurosawa (we can assume). While "Sunshine" may take a dark and very depressing turn, "Orchard" offers some hope in its symbolic ending of the lone orchard and the young boy going after the girl.
The third dream, "The Blizzard," seemed at first to me like a story all its own, but the book "The Films of Akira Kurosawa," by Donald Richie, explains it as the tale of an "adolescent Kurosawa," although I would prefer to guess it as a fictional "mountain man Kurosawa" as the next tale offers a fictional "officer Kurosawa." (again, to quote Richie) Lost in a snow storm, the adolescent Kurosawa sees a "yuki-onna," or snow-woman, who warms him until the storm lifts and it reveals their camp. When I first saw this tale I thought it was the slowest thing I had ever seen, but the second time it was far more fascinating. The sound affects are well done, and the shots of the pure white blizzard and dark shapes of the four struggling men became beautiful in a haunting manner. And, of course, the yuki-onna was a nice touch.
The fourth dream is called "The Tunnel" and shows us an "officer Kurosawa" returning from the war. As he walks through a long tunnel he is revisited by his former comrades-in-arms...who had been lost in the war. This reflects the inner feelings of many Japanese soldiers returning from WWII, feeling as if they had failed their nation and their friends, and the agony of returning defeated with no gain in sight.
The next few films take a young adult Kurosawa in different dream-like circumstances, most often as observer. To me, these are the most fascinating ones, as the Kurosawa character in each is more of an observer, asking characters in his dream at what is happening and why. Starting with "Crows," Kurosawa actually ENTERS an Impressionist painting, heading off to meet Van Gogh in person. He continues to travel through different paintings as if they were real environments, which Kurosawa once explained in person he would often imagine himself doing when he looked upon great pieces of art. I have to confess that this sequence is a double-plus for me...not only is it done by my favorite film maker Akira Kurosawa, but Van Gogh is played by Martin Scorcese, another film maker I adore.
The next two sequences, "Mount Fuji in Red" and "The Weeping Demon" portray nightmares about a Japan that might be. The first is a more possible story about a nuclear fallout of Japan's nuclear power plants - which causes Mount Fuji to erupt and howl like an awakened god. Some consider this as nothing more than another anti-nuclear sentiment from Japan, but I believe it to be instead a classic Japanese nightmare of a horrible event happening on their island and they have no where to run to - a similar type of story was done in a 1960's about Japan sinking into the sea and no one offering any aide to the survivors. "Demon" tells the story of Japan after a nuclear war, combining apocalyptic storytelling with Japanese legend. The Kurosawa character comes across a deformed man with one horn, called an oni but in actuality a victim of radiation. Society has become nothing but demons who eat each other based on a class system, but every night howling in pain caused by their horns. The shot of the entire oni race howling and walking about as humanity's doomed future is perhaps one of the most frightening shots I've seen on film.
The final dream, "Village of the Watermills," is actually fairly positive after the last two. Kurosawa comes across a village of primitive people and has a chat with an old man fixing a new watermill. Much of it is the old man's philosophy on life and how society is going, including the efforts of science and technology.
While this film may not have the narrative storyline or be fast-paced enough for some, I have found this film to be very meditative. Some images, including the blizzard as well as the dance of the dolls, can be very hypnotic, and by the end of the film I even found myself watching during the credits to observe the plants in the water. Obviously this was a very personal work, but it is also a very moving one at that. It was also meditative in sense of emotion, for I feel so many different things watching this: I feel sadness in "Sunshine," I feel sentimental in "Tunnel," I feel horrified in "Demon," and hopeful in "Village." In being personal with himself, Kurosawa has made this film personal for the viewer. I am not Japanese, and I don't pretend to be, but I am also human - and human sentiment is what this film is all about.
on April 2, 2004
Kurosawa's Dreams consists of all his worries about the world and human beings. Since it's one of his last works, his mentality of filming "the Dreams" differed from films such as Seven Samurai in the zenith of his filming career. Instead of presenting the fierce fighting scenes, which he had excelled in, he put more effort into the internalized understandings of human beings, expressing naivete, confusions, struggle, losses, enthusiasm, despair, anger, fear and ultimately internal tranquility¡ªthe natural way of life. It is like a life circle.
If you look at Kurosawa's life, these dreams actually imply his own mentalities from childhood and youth to old. The young artist in the movie, who experienced the Crows, Mount Fuji in Red, the Weeping Ghost, and the Village of the Watermills, is himself. As a young man, Kurosawa majored in Western Art, and was greatly influenced and fascinated by Western artists such as Van go. His obsession with art at that time is obvious as "he" was running through the Van go's works. When I was watching the Crow, I was amazed by the setting of the scenes and his capability of shooting, making every aspect look exactly like Van go's work! Kurosawa is a truly versatile director, surely among the rare ones that have such grounded foundation in fine arts. Comparably, he is not as versed in music as in art. I'm especially amazed by his nuanced choices of color in his colored films. (I will talk about the use of color in Ran later, hopefully.) During the precarious time in Japanese history with wars and political movements, as an aspiring educated young man, who witnessed so many human disasters and stupidities, he got somewhat frustrated yet more angry. The characters in many of his "dreams" condemned the inhumanity brought by H-bombs and nuclear missiles¡ªthe big disaster took place in Japan during WW II. It reminds me of his other movie "I Live in Fear". If we look back on his earlier movies, we can see that the main string of Kurosawa's Dreams is a retrospect of ups and downs of his life as well as a summary of many topics in his other movies.
In the end, Kurosawa presents to us an ideal word, out of any form of industrialization, out of any artificial intentions and religions. The world he describes in the village of watermills, a village without a name, (since names themselves are artificial), is the world that is believed in Zen¡ªa belief that was greatly influenced by Taoism (the path) originated in China believing that human beings should live in a harmony of nature and keep of mood of harmony. "End the thinking (unnatural intention), end the pain," is commonly cited in Zen. This revelation of living life as its original form is where Kurosawa found his internal tranquility¡ªin peace. This is also a sincere advice from an experienced old man. The last scene, as the water wheels goes round and round, life goes on and on as an endless circle.
on October 16, 2003
Eight dream-like stories that touches on everything from a childhood fantasy about a witnessing a fox wedding in the forest to post-apocalyptic nightmare of mutants and cannibals. Some very powerful stuff but a couple of episodes got too preachy when Mr. Kurosawa is exploring his nuclear-war anxieties.
Some of my favorite pieces:
The Tunnel: A weary Japanese officer is walking home from a POW camp at the end of WWII. On the road, he comes upon a dark gaping tunnel, from which the ghosts of his dead soldiers emerge and haunt his conscience. It is hard to forget the image and the sound of a platoon of dead soldiers marching with relentless military precision, gradually emerging from the inky depth of the tunnel like bad memories welling up unbidden.
Sun Under the Rain: A boy ignores his mother's admonitions to stay in doors on a day when rain is falling on clear sunny sky. He ventures to the woods and witness an odd procession of fox spirits. It may sounds like fairy-tale yet the story takes a disquieting turn. The last images of a rainbow striding across a lush valley are beautiful almost beyond belief, but all that beauty is tempered by the uncertain fate of the little boy.
Crows: An art lover step into Van Gogh's paintings. Your eyes will think they died and went to heaven.
on September 16, 2003
Akira Kurosawa's dreams are better than mine. If this is what he saw when he closed his eyes, then I can understand how from that mind sprang the Seven Samurai and the rest.
"Dreams" is maybe the most personal, most "Japanese" of Kurosawa's films, and along with that it is perhaps the most difficult one for Western audiences to appreciate. This is saying nothing against Western audiences, but many of the themes and myths on display may not be familiar, and the imagery and metaphors may be lost without the appropriate background. I definitely appreciated it more after living in Japan, and becoming familiar with the countries folklore and literary story-telling style. Hina Dolls, the Yuki Onna, the mountain villiges like islands of tradition amongst concrete modern Japan...
"Dreams" is beautiful, on a purely visual level. The cinematography is exquisite and the colors and light are displayed with the eye of a painter. It is appropriate that Van Gogh plays a role in one of the many dreams. Like Van Gogh, the stories in "Dreams" are expressionistic and vivid, yet with the subdued emotions that is the hallmark of Japanese literature. This is not the wild, raw statement of a younger Kurosawa.
Story-wise, the dreams play with the themes of death and loss, both human and of nature. The displacement of Japanese forests, the lack of safety standards at nuclear power plants, the loss of traditional Japan, the pointless loss of lives in war...melancholy themes at best. Yet at the end, hope is offered, in a small nook and cranny, like a flower blooming amongst concrete.
The DVD itself is a small disappointment, and I would rather have this belong to the Criterion Collection, but better to have it than not have it.
on March 27, 2003
I finally got online after a while and went poking around and stumbled across this DVD just in an off chance. I was almost completely shocked and amazed to have found it listed. Finally some of Kurosawa's best movies are coming out of Limbo. I have read some recent reviews of this new DVD, and hope it isn't quite as bad as they say it is as far as the widescreen and picture quality go. But of course I am not going to get my hopes up. I have had this for many many years on VHS, and managed to track down a copy on Laserdisc, just before DVD's for anything ever hit the market.
To just make it brief on the review of this movie in general, this is a brilliantly artistic series of short stories, by a super brilliant movie maker. Years ago I had fallen in love with many japanese movies, and Kurosawa has always been a favorite, and almost never disappointed (even my discriminating and picky taste). If you have never watched much foreign movies, try to remember to keep an open mind and follow along as best you can. And watch it again and again to try and catch more things. Some sequences you may not like a whole heck of a lot, but others will surely touch your heart. I only wish Kurosawa could have been encouraged to have made many more of these. The world has truly lost a great visionary of great japanese culture.
To tell you a little of what has been going on with some Kurosawa movies, at least in what I have observed. As near as I can tell, their must have been some problems with Kurosawa's properties when he passed away a number of years ago. Soon after his passing this particular movie Dreams (among some others), disappeared from the market anywhere on VHS or Laserdisc. And for years after that nothing was heard or much known what was going on. Because of this instance, the VHS was off the market for quite a while, then sort of reappeared. But mostly as a Rental copy...
Hopefully now that this has hit the market, it means more of his properties have been released for the general market, and if this DVD copy isn't the best thing around, we can maybe get together and encourage some places (such as Criterion) to look into getting a super great version put out some time in the near future.
Oh, and one other thing. I would have easily given the rating a perfect 5 (which is what the movie itself deserves), but from the reviews of possibly being a bad copied DVD version, I felt I should knock it down to 4. Hopefully it isn't as bad, but like I said, if it is, hope springs eternal that someone else will get the rights to it and make a super great copy like this so deserves.
on March 24, 2003
I saw this "movie", Yume, which is more like a collection of 8 shorter vignette type cinematic experiences based on the dreams of Kurosawa, some good some nightmarish, on the whim of a self-confessed 'intellectual' friend from Tokyo. The first time I went through the whole DVD with a very open mind but failed miserably to see the exalted direction or deep meaning that a Kurosawa movie is supposed to convey. Although I did notice the stunning visuals.
However, I have seen this movie about 2-3 times since, and I truly believe this is one of the most beautiful films ever made. I guess Japanese "art" may be growing on me a bit because a lot of their writing and filmmaking would seem to a non-native as a little, er, pointless. This movie, too, is characterized by extraordinary photography, and long periods during which very little occurs. There is no plot as such - a series of eight situations (dreams) which are virtually tableaux. From time to time people do things like dance in a stylized Japanese manner for a very long time.
A fare of this genre is perhaps not for everyone, definitely not for the masses because the masterly cinematography carries a lot of the story and Hollywood has brainwashed most of us into needing a lot of dialog or action. If that's what you're after, you won't find it here. But I am sure it will make you think about life.
Among other things, it has commmentary on war, the environment and the fragility of the earth. Overall, a very effecting and in the end hopeful movie. My DVD was still in original Japanese (I had expected it to be a dubbed version) and what little dialog there is, is subtitled for the English speaking viewers. The imagery though is absolutely lyrical and transcends language or geopolitical borders! Needless to say, I am smitten with Kurosawa and have since seen IKIRU, RASHOMON and DERSU UZALA -- grand films by a master film artist.
One parting word of advice -- this film needs to be seen in the letterbox format as it was intended.
on March 21, 2003
Being a great fan of the old 1991 Laserdisc version of this movie, I was excited to finally hear that a DVD copy was available. I purchashed it right away in hopes of showing off my progessive scan DVD player (with component hookups) and my snazzy new 16:9 widescreen 46" Sony HDTV. Sadly, this DVD version's quality wasn't anything like I remembered.
10 years ago, I owned this movie on the old Laserdisc format, and the quality was unbelievable. The colors in every segment seemed so perfect, so sharp - that the movie was almost surreal in it's presentation. It just jumped out at you with impossibly perfect reds and stunning blues. I remember loading this Laserdisc when friends came to visit and I really wanted to WOW them with the "new digital laserdisc" technology.
Sadly, it appears this DVD version is a transfer from an inferior, analog source. The widescreen complaints from other reviewers confirm this suspicion. Sure, the DVD looks good, and sounds good, but just doesn't have the impact - color/picture/etc - that the original did. Film grain and dust specks are clearly visible throughout the movie and most edges are fuzzy. My 4 year old DVD of West Side Story is sharper and more vivid than Dreams. I can't stress enough that this DVD seems to be more of a transfer than an actual remastered version of the original.
This DVD reminds me of the Goodfellas DVD transfer, which was also released years ago without any significant DVD bonus features or, more importantly, an enchanced digital transfer from an original copy.
Perhaps I'm being picky, but I remember Dreams as being both a wonderful movie *and* a fabulous technological showpiece for my home theater system. Now it's just another DVD in my collection, looking as technically "good" as Animal House or Heat. Hopefully Criterion will release an enhanced, completely remastered version of this fantastic film in the near future.