Martin Scorsese Plays Vincent Van Gogh In Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams

The movie Dreams(Yume) by Akira Kurosawa is the first movie solely written by Kurosawa. Kurosawa writes its screenplay which is based on both his mind and unconscious. A departure from his typically epic narratives, the film follows various Kurosawa surrogates through eight vignettes, based on eight recurring dreams, each one unfolding with a surreal logic all of its own. In the fifth short episode, “Crows,” Kurosawa casts Martin Scorsese, his fellow auteur, and his equal as a visual stylist, as Vincent Van Gogh.

“Crows,” writes Vincent Canby, is the “least characteristic segment ” of Dreams—the others manifest much more familiar, more Japanese, scenes, and themes. But it is for that reason that “Crows” is perhaps the most revealing of Kurosawa’s statements on his status as an auteur and his relationship with his peers. He approaches Van Gogh/Scorsese not as a rival or even an equal, but as a student, filled with questions and a desire to understand the artist’s methods and motives. The short segment speaks to the way Kurosawa eagerly learned much from Western artists even as he mastered his own cinematic language with distinctly Japanese stories. In this way, he manifested yet another quality of the auteur: a truly international approach to film that transcends barriers of language and culture.