Akira Kurosawa's DREAMS consists of eight short films based on actual dreams of the director. The first sequence, "Sunshine Through the Rain," features a young boy sneaking off into the forest on a rainy day to watch a procession of enchanted foxes. In "The Peach Orchard," a slightly older boy witnesses tree spirits performing a delicate dance. Weary travelers in "The Blizzard" face the elemental wrath of a snow enchantress, while "The Tunnel" finds a military officer haunted by the ghosts of his dead regiment. In "Crows," an art aficionado literally walks into the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh (played by Martin Scorsese). "Mount Fuji in Red" and "The Weeping Demon" are both fantastical cautionary tales about the hazards of nuclear power. Finally the gentle "Village of the Watermills" brings the film to a quiet, pastoral end.
A highly personal project, DREAMS evinces its labor-of-love atmosphere in every sequence. As with all Kurosawa productions, each short film is meticulously designed and beautifully photographed. While many of the middle sequences are eerie and surreal, the first two films and the finale ("Sunshine Through the Rain," "The Peach Orchard," and "Village of the Watermills") are gorgeously lush and serene.
Chishu Ryu - Japanese Actor/With Ozu
Akira Terao - Japanese Actor
Martin Scorsese - American director/screenwriter/producer, GOODFELLAS (1990)
Mieko Harada - Japanese Actress/"Ran"
Akira Kurosawa - Japanese Director
Steven Spielberg - Oscar-winning director/producer/screenwriter
Steven Allan Spielberg - Oscar-winning director/producer/screenwriter
Eight of director Akira Kurosawa's cinematic renderings of dreams are on display within this large film, dealing with such concerns as the futility of war, the perils of nuclear power, and humankind's need to harmonize with nature, in styles that vary from peaceful and pastoral to abstract and surreal. Martin Scorsese appears in one sequence as painter Vincent Van Gogh.
Theatrical Release: May 15, 1990. DREAMS was the first film Akira Kurosawa wrote entirely by himself. He was 80 years old at the time of filming. Directors Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg assisted Kurosawa in getting Warner Brothers to fund DREAMS. In addition, Lucas's Industrial Light and Magic provided certain visual effects, and Spielberg served as the film's executive producer. Ishirô Honda, the creator of Godzilla, served as a creative consultant on the film. When Honda passed away in 1993, Kurosawa delivered his eulogy. Director Martin Scorsese plays Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh in the "Crows" sequence. Oddly enough, Scorsese portrays Van Gogh while speaking in English with a New York accent. DREAMS was initially conceived with 10 episodes in mind. However, only eight were eventually shot for the finished feature. One of the unfilmed sequences involved flying and was rejected as being "unrealizable." In the "Village of the Watermills" episode, 84-year-old actor Chishu Ryu was made up to look 103 years old.
"...[Kurosawa's] swansong..." - 06/01/1990 Sight and Sound, p.204
"...There's an abundance of striking imagery throughout, particularly in early vignettes that celebrate childhood innocence..." -- 3 out of 4 stars - 08/24/1990 USA Today, p.4D
"...Grand....The magical and mysterious are mixed with the practical, funny and polemical..." - 08/24/1990 New York Times, p.C1
"...AKIRA KUROSAWA'S DREAMS contains some of the most beautiful images ever conceived by the man who is widely regarded as the world's greatest living director..." - 08/24/1990 Los Angeles Times, p.F1
"...[The tales'] awesome visual beauty encourages a degree of patience that's usually well rewarded..." - 03/21/2003 Entertainment Weekly, p.91