Behind every great film, there is a great filmmaker – and in the case of some of Japan’s most popular animated features, there is an entire studio. The spark is Hayao Miyazaki, a liberal philosopher, a quintessential artist, and generally funny old man. This feature takes a look at the goings-on of Studio Ghibli, as they work on their most recent projects – and explores the cultural impact of an aging animator and his sometimes-pessimistic look at the world around him, all while creating some of the most uplifting, engaging, and delightful films that the world has ever know.
Hayao Miyazaki is a delightful man, who pours all of his attention into his art. He co-founded Studio Ghibli, and is largly responsible for its success with his world-renouned films such as My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle, just to name a few. In this film we follow him as they continue work on, and finish, one of their most recent works The Wind Rises. A deeply personal film for Miyazaki, with the protagonist largly based on his own father. Also very personal, I feel like the filmmakers did offer an intersting portral of this aging man – mirroring Miyazaki’s liberal past with his current feelings post-fukushima disaster. This film would have been a little more timely a year ago – but isn’t any less important today.
I’m not making a point of it, but between this film and Jiro Dreams of Sushi – I seem to be fond of Japanese Documentaries about elderly gentlemen in the twilight years of their long, illustrious careers. And similarly to Jiro, this film also offered a sort of whimsical look on the hum-drum life of someone that has extraordinary talent. Another similarity between the films is the slow pacing, and flatline storytelling, and the seemingly-too-long runtime.
As a long-time devotee of the Studio Ghibli body of work I was excited at the prospect of a peek behind the creative curtain. And for anyone else with a smilar love of those films, I can say that it is certainly an interesting look at the artistic process and the human side of the studio. Otherwise though it is not a particularly engaging film. I met a woman in the audience who had chosen to attend simply because she wanted to watch more world cinema. I wish I had had the chance afterward to ask her what she thought of it, because I can’t imagine it being too interesting to anyone not emotionally invested in Ghibli’s work. The film was over-long and could have used some judicial editing to tighten it up a fair bit. I’m glad I watched it, but after having absorbed it once it will just be a memory to me, rather than its own opportunity to touch Miyazaki’s work from afar.