Recently, Elizabeth Hand reviewed my new novel-in-stories and ferreted out a lot of influential material I’d been looking at and reading while I lived in Japan and wrote the book. One film that she didn’t mention but was influential on the book nonetheless, particularly in its dreaminess and it’s own film-in-stories type of structure, was Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams, which, when I was living overseas, the writer Midori Snyder recommended to me. And it was a wonderful recommendation. Like the film (and book by Lafcadio Hearn) Kwaidan, which retells Japanese ghost stories and strange tales from a Western perspective, Kurosawa’s film looks at Japanese folklore and strange surreal occurrences from the filmmaker’s own subconscious perspective (of course made conscious in the film itself). At the beginning of each story segment in Dreams, a line of Japanese appears. In the English subtitles the translation states, “Once I had a dream,” but in my own translation of the line, it says, “I saw this sort of dream.”
Below are four segments of the first of the “dreams” in the film, about a young boy who witnesses a kitsune (fox spirits, pronounced key-tsu-nay) wedding procession, even though he’s been warned to not go looking for them, as they’re very private creatures and grow angry when disturbed. It’s beautifully filmed, and was one of the first encounters I’d had with kitsune folklore. It remains one of my favorites.