Jack McFarlane’s review:
I probably should have avoided this movie. Despite having seen many, I can't recall a portmanteau film that i enjoyed in its entirety, and films based on dreams normally bore me to tears.
From amongst the short films featured here, there are always lot of nice touches, yet few that stand on their own as enjoyable shorts. Kurosawa's eye for detail is always strong, and every scene has a sense of artistry, but that actually comes across as a hinderance in the film format. His directorial style in his twilight years favored single static shots of long durations and a detached 4th wall style of framing. In effect is the slowing of an already fractured narrative. It's a technique used successfully in many of his late era works, but here it just makes each film feel more disjointed from the last and the over all work feel tedious. Not that the subject matter helped.
Yes, the rampant fertility of dreams are a huge influence on art, but it's one thing taking from an influence and developing, it's something different entirely to simply recreate with an overt honesty to your source material. There are frequent, well documented failures of adaptions of story or characters resulting from this misplaced fidelity to source material. As if it weren't bad enough with carefully planned and plotted fiction, just think the same thing done to a series of subconscious fantasies vaguely strung together as an pseudo-autobiography.
Think for a second about how massive an ego is needed to believe that anyone would give a shit about the laborious details of your dreams. Now imagine being so convinced of the worthiness of your dreams that you feel they should be anthologized in film form, and then consider the unwillingness of this ego to commit adultery by bending them to the needs of adaption. As if moving from text to images doesn't present enough pitfalls, fuck it, lets just adapt these bizarre little vignettes that represent my personnel neurosis, and hope no one notices that I've scripted myself as the protagonist.
I have massive affection and admiration for a significant body of Kurosawa's work, but please, mate. Scorsese as Van Gogh? Come off it! Why couldn't you just have done like every other aging auteur does and make a dirty old man movies with lashings of poorly motivated sex scenes? Pull it together. Or just write a biography. I dunno. I'm gonna watch High/Low again, that'll make me feel better.