“Most of our world is rubbish. It’s difficult.” Sitting at a table, listlessly smoking a cigarette, the beloved master artist, animator, and director Hayao Miyazaki contemplates what he finds to be the utter hopelessness and crudeness of life. Despite making some of the most charming, comforting, and not to mention visually stunning animated films of all time, Miyazaki conveys this sentiment quite often. One can find his many rather cynical musings captured in director Mami Sunada’s documentary film THE KINGDOM OF DREAMS AND MADNESS (2013), which delves into Miyazaki’s life as well as the world of production within Studio Ghibili, his animation film studio.
Tag: Hayao Miyazaki
We open on a shot of the clouds passing by, and then cut to a young person gazing up at them, their own unknowable future staring back. It’s not the latest Richard Linklater movie – it’s Hayao Miyazaki’s tale of witchhood. Young Kiki has to set out on her own (with her cat, Jiji, and via broom, of course) to find a new town, where she’s to hone her magical craft. Before she sets off, Miyazaki’s eye for observational nuance and idiosyncratic detail takes its own flight. Her room is littered with knickknacks and ornaments, and Kiki’s last look at it all – at the life she’s built, and is leaving – quietly devastates. It’s a telling precursor: The film may revolve around flying, but it’s emotional core is earthbound.
It is very rare, and nothing short of tragic, really, that a filmmaker’s earliest work is his greatest. When auteurs are invariably asked the question of which film they would like to be remembered by, very few select their initial pictures, and with good reason: the beginning of one’s artistic career is an experimental phase, in which ideas are often expressed with little regard (or capability) for nuance or complexity. Age and experience naturally play a factor in this, but I would argue that a truly brilliant filmmaker has a coherent vision that can be identified even in his formative movies.
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind – 1984 – dir. Hayao Miyazaki
The Miyazaki who first came up with the idea for Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind in the early ‘80s was a revolutionary. An ardent Marxist and outspoken critic of the anime industry, he was ready to shake up an artform and inspire young minds with a film that begins after the death of modern civilization and ends with a Messianic arrival of peace and harmony. With funding from the World Wildlife Federation and a popular comic book adaptation to sell the concept, Nausicaa ultimately made little immediate impact but can now be considered one of the all-time classics of anime, and established the concern for the environment, strong feminist viewpoint, and conflicted mix of weapons fetishism and pacifist ideology which would permeate his future work.
â€œI’m not a storyteller, I’m a man who draws pictures,” says Hayao Miyazaki the super-director of some of the highest grossing Japanese films of all time, such as My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and most recently, Howl’s Moving Castle.
In Hollywood, children’s films in general and animated ones in particular follow the classical storytelling mold. A state of equilibrium is disturbed, the protagonist faces difficulties attempting to restore order, and the protagonist secures a new equilibrium, overcoming said difficulties and, in the process, learning something about him- or herself. While the world that is built around these stories may be enchantingly detailed and richly populatedâ€”Iâ€™m thinking of the talking furniture of Beauty and the Beast or the fun forest friends of Bambiâ€”the story arc of the protagonist is central to the film and the tapestry is for show.
Written by Sasha HuzsvaiÂ
Japan, 1988. 86 min. Tokuma Japan Communications Co., Studio Ghibli. Voices: Dakota Fanning, Timothy Daly, Elle Fanning, Pat Carroll; Music: Joe Hisaishi; Produced by: Toru Hara, Yasoyoshi Tokuma, Rick Dempsey; Written by: Hayao Miyazaki, Cindy Davis Hewitt, Donald H. Hewitt; Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
During my childhood, I must have watched My Neighbor Totoro a hundred times, and it has never lost its magic for me, even until this day. Itâ€™s strange sitting down and trying to put the essence of this film into words, because even now, when Iâ€™m grown up and expected to be able to analyze, to break down into pieces and build up again, to self-examine, My Neighbor Totoro remains intact, impenetrable, like a vision half-glimpsed but never quite within reach. For me, at least, itâ€™s synonymous with my own childhood, and it canâ€™t be separated from myself and broken down into categories of good or bad, exciting or dull. Now, when I think of the details burned into my memory when I was seven – the Cat Bus, Mei running through the rice fields, the impish dust bunnies floating through the air â€“ itâ€™s hard to separate those memories from myself, because they shaped who I have become.