(director/writer: Akira Kurosawa; cinematographers: Takao Saito/Mashaharu Ueda; editor: Tome Minami; music: Shinichiro Ikebe; cast: Akira Terao (Principal character in all but the first two sketches), Mitsunori Isaki (Boy), Mitsuko Baisho (Boy’s Mother), Mieko Hirada (Snow Queen), Yoshitaka Zushi (Private Moguchi), Martin Scorcese (Vincent Van Gogh), Chishu Ryu (Old Villager) ; Runtime: 120; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Hisao Kurosawa/Mike Y. Inoue; Warner Home Video; 1990-Japan-in Japanese with English subtitles)

“Beautiful to look at but a rather empty fantasy film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The 80-year-old noted Japanese director Akira Kurosawa (“Ran”/”Kagemusha”/”Red Beard”), considered by many one of the world’s greatest, shoots this beautiful to look at but a rather empty fantasy film. It incorporates his weaknesses for clichés, moralizing and sentimentality, and most of it is embarrassingly bad. It’s a self-indulgent venture, with the slightest of narratives, whereby Kurosawa in 8 episodes (Sunshine Through the Rain, The Peach Orchard, The Blizzard, The Tunnel, Crows, Mount Fuji in Red, The Weeping Demon and Village of the Watermills) tells of 8 dreams that are somehow connected with his life or obsessions.

It opens with a fantasy sequence, ‘Sunshine Through the Rain,’ where a young boy’s mother warns him not to stay out in the sunshower lest he see the foxes emerge at the end of the rain. But he ignores her warning and wanders out into the woods where he sees the strangely dressed and painted foxes emerging in a wedding procession. When he returns his mother doesn’t allow him entry into the home and leaves him to his fate because the foxes were wise to the boy spying on them and he has little choice but use the knife mom left so that he may commit hara kari. ‘The Blizzard’ tells of life’s challenge to endure hardship, as an adventurous party in the tundra is trying to get back to base camp during a snowstorm and if they stop moving they will die. In ‘The Tunnel’ is a ghost story about the war experience of a captain and the men who died in battle under him who are now haunting memories. ‘Crows’ might be the most trite episode. It has a hero-worshiping artist approach Van Gogh (Martin Scorcese, who can’t act a lick and better stick to directing) while he’s trying to finish a nature painting in a lush meadow before the sun sets and preaches in a risible fashion about the glories of nature. ‘Mt Fuji in Red’ covers the director’s concern over nuclear pollution. In ‘Village of the Windmills’ a young gawking male tourist visits a quaint village without electricity and meets a 103-year-old contented man who gives the young blood a lecture on the virtues of going back to nature and living without pollution.

For those who insist that Kurosawa was the greatest Japanese filmmaker ever, they should be aware that he’s made a few clunkers like this one besides his many great films. I never saw an Ozu film that was so awkwardly handled, dramatically languid and banal. Though Kurosawa raises some serious issues he’s concerned about, he seems to be somewhat out of touch with reality, unable to get past being trite and unable to get the viewer involved in his concerns.

REVIEWED ON 2/3/2008 GRADE: C   https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/