Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams/夢 (Yume) - 1990
Dreams leaves behind a residue of beauty. It is beautiful despite itself because the beauty lies in the attitude of the director. This is indicated not only in the didatic intent but in the slowness of everything, in the amount of respect intended, and in the enormous and brazen sincerity of the work.
— Donald Richie (The films of Akira Kurosawa)
Dersu Uzala/Дерсу Узала/デルス·ウザーラ (Akira Kurosawa - 1975)
One of the most beautifully composed and photographed of Kurosawa’s films, Dersu Uzala visually illustrates its theme—in the author of the adapted book Vladmir Arseniev’s words: ‘Man is too small to face the vastness of nature.’ The camera is always at eye level: It is through the human eye that the vastness of the steppes is viewed, and it is the human figure, small in this elemental landscape, that one remembers after having seen the film.
This is one of the last appearances in Kurosawa of the humanism which so illuminates his films. Later pictures would end with vast panoramas of death undignified by hope. Dersu Uzala is one of the final and most persuasive statements of a major thesis in the director’s films: the fact of courage in the face of death.
— Donald Richie on Kurosawa’s only non-Japanese-language film [x]
This is a magnificent summation of Dersu Uzala, and I am so pleased to own a copy of this movie. For me, Kurosawa was one of the last great cinematic storytellers. He understood how to set a frame, how to turn an image into an icon, how to put humans on display in the barest, most painful iterations.
But Donald Richie is right.
Dersu Uzala is one of Kurosawa’s last films about life, about the beauty of life no matter how painful, or how sadly it ends. The validity of that life isn’t diminished, even as Arseniev stands over his friend’s fresh grave. Yet in Kurosawa’s master work, Ran, the last shot in that film is about nothing more than the senseless indignity of death.
Long story shot: enjoy the photo-set, watch the movie.