by Mason Proulx
For a comedy series that has founded its main premise upon the exploration of relationships between aliens and humans, this movie has strangely chosen to take a completely earthbound setting with a focus on the human condition. Exploring the boundries of time and reality, this is a surrealist film that questions what is real and what's merely a dream (Or maybe they're the same thing after all). Like all Urusei Yatsura, this movie is bizarre and silly, but it somehow manages to give its audience food for the mind and the soul.
This movie is the jewel in Urusei Yatsura's crown. It's a true masterpiece. I've been known as a person who leans towards overstatement, but masterpiece seems like the only way I can describe this movie. With the main staff under the pressure of animating the TV show every week, the fact that they were able to divide their attentions so fully and still pull a movie like this out of their hats is awe inspiring.
Just like "Only You" and the first half of the Urusei Yatsura television anime, this was also directed by my one of my all time favorite directors, Mamoru Oshii. His distinctive style is more evident in this movie than in the first. Well paced, painstaking attention to detail, true-to-life human behaviour, a strange yet thought provoking plot and beautifully orchestrated music. Compare this to his later movies like Patlabor 2, Ghost in the Shell and Jin-Roh. While UY2 may be more comical and exaggerated than his later masterworks, it has the same careful quietude and adherence to the way humans interact in real life.
If I can be totally superficial for a moment, the one criticism I have is that I would have liked them to use Ran, Benten, Oyuki or Rei to get the aliens in on the action. But I suppose leaving them out actually works better in this case since "Beautiful Dreamer" has nothing to do with outer space but rather the world of dreams.
This is one of those movies where the plot appears to be going a certain way but then at several points it throws you off guard and goes in a completely different direction. It may sound like a cheap trick, but it's done so well that it's part of what makes Beautiful Dreamer such an intriguing film. During the movie there is a constant atmosphere of isolation and forboding that is just so darn eerie that it's rivoting.
I already mentioned the music and I should repeat that this is an amazing orchestra soundtrack. You really have to hear it for yourself. It's a huge part of why this movie is so absorbing. With the music, the bizarre imagery and insightful dialogue, Beautiful Dreamer really does draw you into its hypnotic world of friendship and isolation. This is a movie every casual admirer of anime must see. Whether or not you're a fan of Urusei Yatsura it's hard to resist the pull of Beautiful Dreamer. It's definately the best Urusei Yatsura movie, if not one of the top 10 anime movies of the 80's.