Dreams is, I believe, my favorite Kurosawa film, though I should note that on the whole I don't particularly like Kurosawa films. The more I think about it though, the more affectionate I become towards compilations of short films. About half of these films are great, half are rather plain, the few that are great are good enough to make up for all the rest.

The film is composed of a series of dreams that Kurosawa had in his life, progressing from several childhood dreams to dreams in his old age. The childhood dreams are quite amazing, especially the first. In this early dream, a young boy is told by his mother to leave his house because he saw the fox marriage which brought bad luck upon the house (foxes are a common demon in Japanese mythology), he goes in to the wood and sees a progression of people, he watches them move slowly, and then they all turn and face him with fox masks on.

Besides just being a stunning piece of camera work (no matter how much I find Kurosawa dull, I have to admit he knows how to use a camera), the film is positively eerie, and I think gets a much stronger point across than the overtly environmentalist pieces later in the film.

A point I try to make often in this blog (which comes from a rather outdated discussion in film theory), is that there are two modes of discourse in cinema, there is the allegorical and the ontological. The allegorical is where the filmmaker sets up a set, a story, a piece of editing, in order to say something, whether it be that Sally is going to kiss Joe, Sally loves Joe, or that we need to save the world from the destruction of the earth. In order ot make these points the filmmaker uses techniques slightly more sophisticated than a novelist, but the end goal is roughly the same.

The ontological level of discourse has to do with the disconnect between the intended meaning created through film language, and the physical presence of a human being on the camera.

The most interesting pieces of film use the allegorical level of discourse to denote the ontological level of discourse, but in doing play with the human experience of being. Godard is the ideal example of someone not narrativizing an experience but narrativizing experience in general (Wong Kar Wai does this as well), Tarkovsky and Sokurov turn being as such into narrative.

In this first piece in Dreams we are not being told a story, because there is no story as such to tell, there is no point to the story. We are being shown a dream, but it is not a dream, in the dream the foxes would most likely be either real foxes, humans, or both humans and foxes at the same time (dreams can do that), it is rather unlikely that the foxes would be people wearing a mask. The people are wearing a fox mask not because that is the content of the narrative (since the whole narrative is to tell us a dream), but because the dream has become theater... without a stage. The dream has become a real version of an unconscious moment (real in a way), without ever becoming real.

Reality and dreams are never as far apart as one would make them seem. That is all this piece is trying to say, and both can be so beautiful they are frightening. Or perhaps so frightening they are beautiful.

Worth watching, despite the fact that Scorcese should never ever try to pretend that he's Van Gogh.

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