Monday, July 6, 2015

Crow relates to Kurosawa's Dream

It's summer again here in the Northern Hemisphere and we're happy to report our cherry tomato plants are doing nicely. Not so well, perhaps, as the ones that grew in this earlier garden that Crow visited, but well enough for a large clay pot on a west facing balcony. While I'd rather have a garden, the good news is the pot doesn't require much in the way of weeding.

This afternoon Crow reminded me of one of Akira Kurosawa's movies - his last, in fact, called 'Dreams'. In the final section a young traveler from our age comes to a village where the only machines are wooden water wheels. Having walked and gazed in wonderment he stops to talk to an old man:

    T: There’s no electricity here?

    OM: Don’t need it. People get too used to convenience. They think convenience is better. They throw out what’s truly good.

    T: But what about lights?

    OM: We’ve got candles and linseed oil.

    T: But night’s so dark.

    OM: Yes. That’s what night’s supposed to be. Why should night be as bright as day? I wouldn’t like nights so bright you couldn’t see the stars.

    T: You have paddies. But no tractors to cultivate them?

    OM: Don’t need them. We’ve got cows and horses.

    T: What do you use for fuel?

    OM: Firewood mostly. We don’t feel right, chopping down trees, but enough fall down by themselves. We cut them up and use them as firewood. And if you make charcoal from the wood just a few trees can give you as much heat as a whole forest. Yes, and cow dung makes good fuel too.

After pausing to take in the sounds of nature, the traveler continues to listen to the old man:

    OM: We try to live the way man used to. That is the natural way of life. People today have forgotten they’re really just a part of nature. Yet, they destroy the nature on which our lives depend. They always think they can make something better. Especially, scientists. They may be smart, but most don’t understand the heart of nature. They only invent things that in the end make people unhappy. Yet they are so proud of their inventions. What’s worse, most people are too. They view them as if they were miracles. They worship them. They don’t know it but they’re losing nature. They don’t see that they’re going to perish. The most important things for human beings are clean air and clean water and the trees and grass that produce them. Everything is being dirtied, polluted forever. Dirty air, dirty water, dirtying the hearts of men.

A few days ago in escaping the news of droughts, wars, migrations and imminent financial collapse I spent some time reading some old Archdruid posts. I've slightly paraphrased a passage he wrote toward the end of this article as it fit so well with what Kurosawa's old man told the traveler:

A truly advanced civilization, here or elsewhere, might well have much in common with a community like this one: it might use very modest amounts of energy and resources with high efficiency, maximize sustainability, and build for the long term. Such a civilization would be very hard to detect across interstellar distances, and the limits to the energy resources available to it make it vanishingly unlikely that it would attempt to cross those distances; this would hardly make it a failure as a civilization, except in the eyes of those for whom the industrial-age fantasies of science fiction trump all other concerns.



  1. I wonder what effect the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan in August of '45 affected this film. His 'Rhapsody in August' was about the effects of the Nagasaki bomb.
    It's kind of a 'Jefferson vs Hamilton' in a way, to view it from an American perspective.
    Hey, don't dis SF, the genre gave us Ursula Le Guin, her visions are not dystopian at all.

  2. I remember reading he took a lot of heat about that movie about highlighting the blame on one side while disregarding the other. His response was that it's governments that go to war, not people.
    Oh I'd never dis SF as it's still high on my favorite reading lists. I even met Ursula LeGuin in Portland when Blue Moon over Thurman Street was released (a wonderful book of photographs and poetry). She even wished me luck in my art career which was very sweet. Lucky I have been, indeed, but the income always came from working for doctors. :)

    1. Did you? How delightful for you, I'm not jealous, but nearly. I attended a talk she gave at PSU back in '70 or so, she was talking about her earthsea books. I asked her how she could kill a character off like she dis and she just looked at me, amused, and said "that's just what happened to him." Took me decades to get it, sortof.

    2. It was a delight meeting her as was watching the speech she gave last year at The National Book Awards. She a thoroughly fine woman. I smiled when I read her answer to your question. Have you ever tried to write a novel? I did, only once. Not surprisingly, I had no idea what I was doing and no plan, but the interesting thing that happened was that my characters took on a life of their own as I wrote. I kept writing for weeks just to see what would happen next until the day came about six chapters in when everything was in such a muddle I had to give up.

  3. What a delightful and very wise excerpt! I must see the whole film and of course more by Kurosara.

    I'm glad your pot of tomatoes is doing well.

    1. I'm happy you enjoyed it, Marja-Leena. I'd recommend all his films, the best of which were the ones starring the equally incomparable Toshiro Mifune.

      Yes, the little tomato plants are very happy. I hope your garden is doing well and that the heat isn't affecting you too much.

  4. Hi Susan
    Although I have not seen the picture I can image from its simplicity and yet absorbing detail it would be of particular appeal to artists and the public alike despite the story resembling more of a fable from the filmmaker’s perspective than what conceivably could be a dream.
    I notice Crow does look suitably impressed in his regal his surroundings, for he is indeed a patient bird listening to that sermon from the Old MAN, true as it may be, but I gather not to even allow himself the luxury of the rustle of a single feather throughout!!
    Best wishes

    1. Hi Lindsay,
      We did see this one and I'd have to say that even though it didn't match the heights of his earlier work it definitely has its own merits. It was quite remarkable to see the famous director Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Last Temptation of Christ) playing Vincent VanGogh.
      Crow thanks you for your fine compliments.
      Best wishes to you too

  5. Been too long since I was here in the wonder of your drawings and folds of your beautiful mind. I always gain so much from my visits, Susan. Your drawing is wonderful and, where such a garden as Crow's would be lovely, I too have tomatoes growing in a pot. And I quite love them since I must be contented with them.

    1. It's always sweet to see you've been by, Lydia. Neither of is quite so prolific as once was, but the admiration is mutual, my friend. Yes, while I'd love to have a real garden it's very nice to have a little something growing outdoors, isn't it? I'm hearing it's an unusually hot summer there this year.

  6. For a few moments escaping the news of droughts, wars, migrations and imminent financial collapse was good. Regards plus Remy to Crow, and whenever you feel fancy for weeding, dearest Susan: My garden is your castle. :)

    1. I would love to visit your castle, dear Sean, but perhaps we can pay someone else to weed while we relax in the shade?

    2. Of course, you're welcome even when rather being fancy for relaxing in the shade.
      Just let me know when Queen Mary II will enter the port of Hamburg. :)