Thursday, December 24, 2009


*Akira Kurosawa*1990*90m*

One of the last movies of the director. The film has the format of a series of eight dreams. It seems to be autobiographical, examining memories, concerns and fantasies from an early age onwards. It seems the work of a person whose mind is focussed on the end. He also expresses his social concerns.

The best thing about the film is it's visual splendour. It starts of with a marriage procession of foxes, in which ancient musical instruments and the slow rhythms of kabuki dance combine into a vision of ominous, melancholy and nostalgic beauty, seen through the eyes of a boy. As the same boy laments the felling of a peach orchard, a vast array of dolls in gorgeously colorful draperies, dressed up like the fallen trees, enact another eery classical dance performance, to console and encourage the boy. Another dream depicts a snowstorm in which the lives of a group of adventurers is threatened.

As a man enters a dark tunnel, he is threatened by a ferocious wolf. Then his subordinates in the army, who "died like dogs" in the war even though they are glorified now, return from their graves, grieving over their own deaths like the ghost in Hamlet.

Mount Fuji is shown with a background of devastation as six "safe" nuclear plants erupt in succession in a radioactive inferno. Finally we see an idyllic village where people live harmonious lives, as the film culminates in a joyous funeral procession.

A mixed bag. Some of the social messages appear stereotyped and  didactic . The beauty of images compensates for everything.

Having seen several movies of his, this was worth it for providing an insight into the film-maker in his final years, since we know him mainly by the films of his youth.


Literary Dreamer said...

Interesting. I need to see more Kurosawa myself, but I was wondering if you have seen Ran, which is in Ebert's Great Movies Collection. I don't know if it's the last masterpiece that Kurosawa directed, but it is a late masterpiece. It would be interesting to see if that movie has a stronger effect than this one does on you.

SM Rana said...

Yes I did see Ran couple of years ago and having a particular fascination for King Lear, enjoyed this robust and colorful incarnation thereof.