Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Dreams of Akiri Kurowasi

Theatre poster, Warner Brothers.
We should all have such stunning dreams! That was my thought as the last movie of the Ohio Theatre's International Film Festival ended. An appreciative crowd gathered to enjoy food from KotoBuki and interesting conversation at the closing reception.

Scenes from Dreams,  the film by Japanese writer and director Akiri Kurowasi (1990), floated through the atmosphere of the theater like the spirits of flowering peach trees.  Pink petals filled the air. Crows flew dramatically from golden wheat fields painted by  van Gogh.

A "magic realism," as Kurowasi's film has been called, filled the house with the stunning cinematography that took our breaths away.

Peter Ujvagi, former Toledo Council member and Lucas County Administrator, and community leader extraordinaire, agreed.  "The cinematography was beautiful," he said. the textures and colors like Edo wood prints.  Peter Ujvagi has been in the forefront of supporting Toledo's international cultural traditions, preserving its history and buildings, and celebrating diversity. His colleagues who support the Ohio Theatre restoration have, too, among them board member Tom Jesionowski of United North, and Jim Hill, professor emeritus of Theatre Design and Technology at the Univerity of Toledo and now board chair. They were present to welcome movie goers and talk about plans for the future.

My friend Teddy said she liked the dream where a curious man, obviously the filmmaker,  runs through Vincent van Gogh's paintings, super saturated with color and texture.  Chasing van Gogh! The artist is played by Martin Scorsese, to interesting effect.  A western-art inspired dream, the only one, that ends fittingly with a Chopin prelude.

Kim, a graduating Senior at UT, noted the juxtaposition of tragic and happy dreams. She mentioned the dream featuring dead soldiers, their faces in ghostly blue paint, haunting their guilt-ridden commander who survived "the tunnel" of death, guarded by a mad fox armed with explosives.  A sad and frightful scene. Is it the same fox that pushed the young boy-turned-filmmaker to seek meaning and forgiveness under the rainbow?  Then Kim talked about the flower-filled "Watermills" dream at the end of the film, featurng a peaceful village in harmony with nature.

I thought about the dream where mountaineers struggle for survival in a brutal blizzard, and death beckons in the vision of a woman with a shimmering soft blanket of golden threads. The dream floated.  Another dream draws upon the fear of nuclear holocaust, a dramatic rendering of the meltdown and explosions of a nuclear power plant that turn Mount Fuji red, bleeding red, this dream followed by another, the Weeping Demon, showing the haunting effects of the disaster.

The pace is slow, very slow, like a Japanese tai chi dance, but the images are striking. In this age of action movies, computers and fast internet access, the faster the better, Kurowasi's film seems like a movie in slow motion.  The camera focuses on every detail for a long time, lingering, lingering.  I found myself distracted by the pace at first, then took a deep breath and slowed myself down. In a more meditative state, I fully enjoyed the rest of "Dreams" without distraction.

A woman with whom I chatted briefly summed it up: "No matter how we view the films, all of these films give you something to think about."

That's for sure.  And more food for thought is forthcoming at the Ohio Theatre. Check their website for updates:  .

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