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a t, - g? ‘5 z . S .2 J f Akira Kurosawa, veteran
genius ofJapanese cinema, delved into his own
unconscious for his latest '
film, Dreams. Kenny
Mathieson tracked him down in Cannes.
lf Akira Kurosawa‘s Dreams is something of an indulgence for the
80 year old director, it is one which he has earned many times over. The film, which opened the Cannes Film Festival last week, literally commits eight of his dreams to celluloid, ranging from childhood fantasies to nightmares of nuclear destruction.
‘After making Ran,’ Kurosawa told a packed and unusually reverent press conference, ‘I took a short break to get over my fatigue, and during that very happy period, I remembered a line from a book by Dostoevsky. He was talking about dreams, and, to sum up, said that dreams were very profound thoughts which human beings buried during their conscious moments, but which rose up during sleep, and were expressed in extraordinary and surrealistic ways.
‘Dostoevsky wondered what happened in the human mind to create the wonderful transformations we all make in our dreams, what it is that allows this fantastic liberation. It led me to ask myselfwhat happened when I myself dream, and when I thought about it, I realised that dreams are actually very well-constructed, and do in fact use marvellous forms of expression. 1 do not agree at all with Freud‘s ideas on dreams, and I think his
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interpretations of them are often very forced.
‘I began to write down dreams which I remembered having, beginning with one from early childhood, and in the course of a few days I wrote down eleven in all. When I showed these writings to friends and people who knew me well, they all encouraged me to make a film from them, so I did. The three dreams which I did not include in the film were either too complicated technically. or required too many people. but it is possible that I will make them sometime.‘
The project was produced by Kurosawa‘s son Hisao, but with the assistance of his American admirers Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. That is an appropriate link, given the debt which western cinema owes to Kurosawa‘s work. Several of his films have spawned American imitations, including the conversion ofSeven Samurai ( 1954) into The Magniﬁcent Seven, Rashomon (1950) being remade as The Outrage. and Yojimbo (1961) turning into the foundation ofA Fistful ofDolIars, while Lucas himselfreadily acknowledges the inﬂuence of The Hidden Fortress on Star Wars.
The transaction with the West has not been all one way, however. Kurosawa has plundered western
literature for subjects, including his magnificent re-telling of Macbeth in Throne ofBlood ( 1957) and King Lear in Ran (1985), adaptations of Dostoevsky‘s The Idiot ( 1951) and Maxim Gorky‘s The Lower Depths (1957), and even the transformatior of Ed McBain‘s 87th Precinct thriller 'King's Ransom into High and Low (1963). Criticism in Japan for his interaction with western cultural values has made little impression on a director who has increasingly made his own rules on what is and is not possible in his films.
Dreams is Kurosawa's twenty-eighth film ofa career which began with Sanshiro Sugata in 1943, and which includes at least half a dozen of the greatest cinematic achievements ofthe era. although argument will rage over exactly which half-dozen. Most ofthe films mentioned above are contenders, as are the elegiac Dersu Uzala (1975) and Kagemusha ( 1980), while Dodes' Ka-den (1970) remains a personal favourite. Kurosawa’s own estimation of his work is rather less fulsome.
‘In all my films,‘ he suggested, echoing his recent Oscar acceptance speech. when he was awarded for life-time achievement by the Academy, ‘1 think there are only two or three moments of real cinema.
srhe List 18—31 May 1990