Dreaming Of An Aneurysm.
In the 1990s, Akira Kurosawa made Dreams and then had a stroke, finally providing proof of the underlying theme that pervades this website: Japanese people should not make films when they’re about to have a stroke. The Japanese are crazy enough normally, let alone with a blood clot floating around in their brains. Comprised entirely of beautifully shot but entirely disconnected dream sequences, this is the sort of movie that seems to have been created for the sole purpose of forcing film students to use the word “oneiric” in a sentence. It’s the sort of film that no one understand, so they have to pretend to like so that they don’t seem stupid. I call it the Thin Red Line Syndrome. But Dreams is not meant to make sense, which puts it in a class of Japanese cinema all by itself, a class that confuses by design, rather than by being absolutely unaware of storytelling fundamentals.
But that’s what I love about this film. Well, I also love that Martin Scorsese is in it as Vincent Van Gogh, which seems monstrously conceited but just ends up being funny, as Scorsese is a short hairy little fellow who stands out among that Japanese like Wolverine fighting the Hand. But mainly, what I love about this film is that it’s beautiful and captivating, but clearly the product of a raving lunatic. Finally, probably due to pre-cardiac stroke symptoms of numbness and loss of balance, Kurosawa has embraced his discombobulate Japanese heritage of absolute cinematic insanity. Having spent an entire career being a more long-winded John Ford with samurai swords, it’s nice to see Kurosawa create something that must be seen as uniquely Japanese, as opposed to a hybrid of different Western styles. The fact that this must come in the form of two hours of cinematographic wankery is unfortunate, but again, it adds weight to my long running complaint that national cinemas should attempt to define themselves against American movies, as opposed to just aping them. Since Kurosawa took the bait, it’s time for some other countries to follow suit.
France: French films are loving celebrations of cinema as an art form, not a product. They break new ground while embracing film history with open arms. Wait. Did I say “are”? Because I meant “were”. Now, they’re just Vincent Cassel kung fu fighting stuff.
Russia: Russian films are intellectualized deconstructions of the tools used to create a movie, from the montage experimentation of Eisenstein to the lengthy time image studies of Tarkovsky. Wait. Did I say “are” again? Because I still meant “were”. Now, they’re just two hour commercials for Tony Scott movies.
USA: American films are stupid. Wait, did I say “are” again? Because I meant to. I don’t want to be one of these coffee shop losers in a Che Guevara T-Shirt, spouting out trite, predictable nonsense about the superiority of foreign films carried on gusts of weed breath, but it’s true. Hollywood functions on the “throw enough shit at the movies screen and some of it will stick, slide down, and leave a Vin Diesel-shaped smear” approach to filmmaking, and while it sometimes works, mainly it doesn’t. Sometimes I wish I lived in a third world hell hole like Azerbaijan or England, and I only got to see American films six months after they’re released, once all the crap has been weeded out. But then I realize that I like hot food and electricity, so I guess it’s all something of a trade off.
So while Dreams doesn’t get a lot of lip service in critical circles, I’m going to go on record as saying that this is my favorite Kurosawa film, once again proving the long-running theory here at the 16mm Shrine that I am probably having a stroke.