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A Dream of Kurosawa (in Which Scorsese Plays Van Gogh)


Cinema is a dream by other means, and in the hands of an artist like Akira Kurosawa the results can be extraordinary.

One of the final projects of Japanese film director, Akira Kurosawa, was Dreams, 1990, a series of film exercises based in eight recurring dreams. An entirely different form of experimentation, Dreams departs from the previous work of Kurosawa, and epic leads to an exploration of the filmmaker’s unconscious logic.

The fifth episode, “Crows,” is especially interesting in its choice of casting: film director Martin Scorsese plays the role of the painter, Vincent Van Gogh.

Kurosawa’s I-oneiric is split between a young art student who observes Van Vogh’s paintings in a museum. These reappear a moment later in a rolling countryside, as if through the frame of the painting, and when the student is faced with the living nature that inspired the painter.

The dialogue between the student and the teacher reflects in many ways the complex relationship of an artist, the tradition and the artist’s colleagues. No intention is made in interpreting or reducing Kurosawa’s dream to cheap psychology. The alter-ego of the dreamer approaches Van Gogh/Scorsese from the perspective of the student and not a rival, in a spirit of learning rather than competition.

In a fascinating game of mirrors, Kurosawa reveals himself through reflexes that lend the film both magical and dreamlike articulation that’s always surprising. Kurosawa let us always learn something from the way they see the world through film, and its 100 film recommendations.

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