Tag Archives: Hayao Miyazaki

FILM REVIEW: The Wind Rises (Miyazaki, 2013): Japan

Reviewed by Larry Gleeson. Viewed during AFI Filmfest 2013.

The Wind Rises, is a new animated, full-length, feature film from legendary Japanese animation director, Hayao Miyazaki. Miyazaki announced at this year’s Venice Film Festival this will be his last film. In 1997 his Princess Mononoke, was the highest revenue grossing film in the history of Japan at the time of its release and it also received the Japanese equivalent of an Academy Award for Best Film. Miyazaki is also well known for the films Spirited Away, (2001) and Howl’s Moving Castle, (2004) In 2003 Miyazaki received an Oscar for Best Animated Feature for the film Spirited Away.

His films have garnered international acclaim from critics and have provided Miyazaki public recognition within Japan. His films are known for compelling characters, engaging plots and eye-catching animation. Remarkable by today’s standards his films allow no more than 10% of the footage to come from computer animation.

In The Wind Rises, Miyazaki tells the story of Jiro Horikoshi, a real-life aeronautical engineer who designed fighter aircraft in Japan during WWII. The film opens with the young Jiro fantasizing of his plane flying above his hometown. As I watched the scene unfold, a rather powerful ominous feeling surfaced as I was reminded of Leni Riefenstahl’s opening scene from the Nazi propaganda documentary, Triumph of the Will. Nevertheless the early moments of the film are very heartwarming as Miyazaki chooses to highlight Jiro’s youth as an older brother to a delightfully spirited younger sister in a single parented household run by their kind and caring mother.

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Jiro’s passion throughout the film is making good airplanes. Jiro’s daydreaming, which he does a few times during the story’s arc. Admittedly, several of my favorite moments are Jiro’s imaginings with Count Caproni, a larger-than-life mustachioed Italian airplane designer who mentors Jiro with playful and good-natured ribbing, that provide insight into  Jiro’s creative passion. Jiro finds his inspiration through such moments and Miyazaki makes space for them throughout the film.

The story is partially based on Tatsuo Hori’s 1938 novelette, “The Wind Has Risen.” Miyazaki’s animation provides beautiful plush scenery with Monet-like backdrops and landscapes providing striking visuals while creating a powerful nostalgia for a simpler time lightly brushing over the complications of war and economic depression. With such a breathtaking mise-en-scene it’s no wonder a young Jiro falls in love with the  young woman he saved during a traumatic, historic earthquake a few years before (the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake).

In direct juxtaposition to this frantic and rather manic scenario in the aftermath of the earthquake, young Jiro finds himself vacationing in a rural setting enjoying the greenery and the soft “rising” winds complete with majestic and billowing, flowery clouds when he coincidentally crosses paths with the beautiful girl he saved from the earthquake as she paints poetically on a hillside overlooking the spectacular countryside.

The Wind Rises, is a very light-hearted, entertaining film. The film focuses pretty much exclusively on the protagonist, Jiro, as an idealistic engineer whose primary purpose in life is to make planes. Granted, he falls in love and rubs elbows with German plane builders during WWII. Yet, WWII and the social unrest after the  Great Kanto Earthquake are left virtually untouched. Tellingly, Jiro’s concern at the end of the war was over the planes that didn’t come back. Nevertheless, I wholeheartedly recommend the film for children and for adults with a penchant for Monet-esque visuals.

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Five Soviet Movies That Shook The World

2016 has been named ‘The Year of Cinema’ in Russia, with extra funds allocated for the local film industry. Russian Sputnik News service recalls five Soviet movies which left a lasting impression worldwide and are still looked up at as examples of stunning cinematography.

The Cranes are Flying, 1957 (Letyat Zhuravli)

This military drama, based on the play “Eternally Alive” (“Vechno zhivye”) by Viktor Rozov was directed at Mosfilm studio by the Soviet director Mikhail Kalatozov. The Cranes are Flying has become the first and so far the only domestic film to have been awarded the Palme d’Or — the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

With surprising emotional power, the film reveals a tragic story of two lovers, who were cruelly and permanently separated by war. Picasso himself was shocked, saying he had not seen anything like this in the last hundred years.

In order to film some of the epic scenes, Russian cinematographer Sergei Urusevsky invented and built the first operator’s circular rail. Some of the groundbreaking techniques he pioneered are still used by filmmakers. According to renowned American film critic Todd McCarthy, the influence of Kalatozov and Urusevsky was obvious in the 2015 Oscar-winning movie The Revenant.

Battleship Potemkin, 1925 (Bronenosets Potyomkin)

 

In 1958, this Soviet silent film directed by Sergei Eisenstein and produced by Mosfilm was named the greatest film of all time at the Brussels World’s Fair. Twenty years later, film critics worldwide rated this movie first on their hundred best films list. And in 2009, the Russian drama was cited as one of the top 15 blockbusters to have had the greatest impact on world cinema.

Created in just four months, Battleship Potemkin was ordered by the Soviet government, which needed propaganda material to mark the anniversary of the First Russian Revolution. In 1926 in Germany, the government tried to ban the film. A few years later, mutineers aboard the Dutch ship “De Zeven Provinciën” claimed that their revolt was inspired by this film.

Hundreds of examples can be found in world cinema copying the principles of the film’s famous shooting scene. The scene was directly quoted in Coppola’s Godfather, Gilliam’s Brazil, and De Palma’s The Untouchables. Even The Simpsons have referenced Eisenstein.

Andrei Rublev, 1966

A sincere biographical historical drama directed by Andrei Tarkovsky and co-written with Andrei Konchalovsky is loosely based on the life of Andrei Rublev, the great 15th-century Russian icon painter. A version of the film was shown at the 1969 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the FIPRESCI prize from The International Federation of Film Critics).

Tarkovsky sought to create a film that shows the artist as “a world-historic figure” and Christianity “as an axiom of Russia’s historical identity” during a turbulent period of Russian history. It became a real eye-opener for Western audiences, which had perceived the Soviet Union as a bastion of atheism and godlessness.

At home, the film was often labeled as “Anti-Russian, antipatriotic and ahistorical.” The Soviet government refused to release the movie until 1971, when a censored version of the film was released. According to a 1978 survey of world film critics, the film had become one of the hundred best movies in the history of cinema. The European Film Academy in 1995 included it in its ten best films of world cinema.

War and Peace, 1966-67

Leo Tolstoy’s immortal novel has been adopted for the silver screen and television several times. The Soviet war drama written and directed by Sergei Bondarchuk won the Golden Globe Award in 1969 for Best Foreign Language Film. It was the first Soviet picture to win the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and also the longest film ever to receive an Academy Award. Produced by the Mosfilm studios and released in four parts, the film became the most expensive one ever made in the USSR, at a cost of 8,291,712 Soviet rubles, equal to 9,213,013 USD in 1967 or over 66 mln USD in today’s money. In 1967, the film was entered into the 1967 Cannes Film Festival outside of the competition; it was sent there instead of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev.

Bondarchuk’s War and Peace became known for its large-scale battle scenes and use of innovative panoramic filming of battlefields. Several scenes were shot using a hand-held 1KSSHR camera, which weighed about 10 kg and required uncommon physical strength when wielded by film operator Anatoly Petritsky.

Some unusual techniques were adopted by the film makers during the shooting. Some scenes of the Battle of Borodino were taken with the camera fixed on a 120-meter-long cable, which was stretched across the battlefield. To “dive” into the atmosphere of the Natasha Rostova’s first ball, Petritsky stood on roller skates and was moved among the waltzing couples by an assistant. These techniques were included in a documentary about filming the movie and were later used as study material for the training of future operators.

Hedgehog in the Fog, 1975

This Soviet animated film was directed by Yuriy Norshteyn and produced by Soyuzmultfilm animation studio in Moscow. In 1976, the cartoon won its first prizes at the All-Union festival of animated films in Frunze and at the Festival of Films for Children and Young Adults in Tehran. In 2003, the cartoon was crowned the best animated film of all time in Japan and worldwide from among a top-150 list created by 140 critics and animators from different countries. The main hero of this animated film, the Hedgehog, received its own sculpture in Kiev. The film was also referenced in one of the episodes of the animated comedy series Family Guy, “Spies Reminiscent of Us” in 2009.

Famous Japanese film director Hayao Miyazaki, who created such anime masterpieces as My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle, named this Soviet story about a little hedgehog his favorite work.

Interesting techniques were used during the cartoon’s creation. The fog effects were created by putting a very thin piece of paper on top of the scene and slowly lifting it up toward the camera frame-by-frame until everything behind it became blurry and white. The film also used a trick of combined filming; for example, the water was real, albeit hatched by the artist.

(Source: https://sputniknews.com)

Japanese films fail to make mark at ‘Big 3’ festivals

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Misuzu Sato

Japanese films failed to make the Golden Lion shortlist at the 73rd Venice Film Festival that wrapped up in September. A question was posed at the Venice Film Festival Press Conference on why Japan is missing out on challenging in the top competition for the second consecutive year.

Also in Cannes and Berlin this year, no Japanese films were shown in competition, meaning they were not in the running for the top prizes at the “Big Three” film festivals.

While experts say Asian films have been losing their foothold in the increasingly competitive film festival circuit, they urge Japanese filmmakers to pursue their ingenuity and attempt a more international perspective.

The Venice festival has given the Golden Lion prize to Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon and Takeshi Kitano’s Hana-bi, and also showcased films by Kitano, Hayao Miyazaki, Shinya Tsukamoto and other Japanese filmmakers in competition for 13 consecutive years until 2014. Although three of the 21 films showcased in competition in 2008 were from Japan, no Japanese movies have made it to the main competition for the past two years.

“With the number of films produced having increased, the margin for not only Japanese films but also for other Asian movies to be featured at international film festivals has shrunk in recent years,” said Tokyo International Film Festival programming director Yoshihiko Yatabe. “As it stands, it is less of the quality of the works than the fact that organizers can’t get around to reviewing Asian films as South American and North European films are also doing great.”

However, Filipino director Lav Diaz won the Golden Lion for Best Film for his The Woman Who Left at Venice this year.

A forum focusing on the rapidly growing Chinese market was also held on the sidelines.

But Venice festival director Alberto Barbera said the festival had picked up a powerful and beautiful Japanese work in the Orizzonti section for cutting-edge films: Kei Ishikawa’s first feature film Gukoroku–Traces of Sin.

While Ishikawa was presented in Orizzonti, Yasushi Kawamura’s full-CG film Gantz: O–also his first full-length feature–was screened out of the competition at Venice.

At Cannes, Koji Fukada’s Harmonium received the Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard section.

“In Japan, it is difficult for filmmakers to make auteuristic art films, but it shouldn’t be impossible if they are determined,” said film journalist Atsuko Tatsuta, as to how Japanese films could break into the competition lineup. “They need to gain a more international perspective by collaborating with other countries and making other efforts.”

Jean-Michel Frodon, former editorial director of film magazine Cahiers du Cinema, said that although Japanese filmmakers are making good films, they have yet to earn recognition abroad. He also stressed the importance of showing their presence at other film festivals and promoting their works to overseas audiences.

*Featured photo: The red carpet at the Venice Film Festival in Lido Island, Italy, where all the films want to be competing (The Asahi Shimbun)

(Source: www.asahi.com)

Hosoda hopes to surpass anime legend Miyazaki

Posted by Larry Gleeson

By Olivier Fabre

screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-5-01-37-pmTOKYO —

Mamoru Hosoda, one of Japan’s young anime directors hoping to lead the industry after the retirement of legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki, says he hopes to surpass his boyhood hero one day, but don’t look for Miyazaki in his movies.

“That won’t happen. It is only right that different directors create totally different works,” Hosoda, 49, told Reuters TV ahead of the Tokyo International Film Festival next month where a retrospective of his work will be shown.

“I think there are movies that only I can create and movies that only I know how to make people enjoy them,” he said.

Hosoda’s rise to fame culminated with his 2015 box office hit “Boy and the Beast”, which grossed over 5.8 billion yen ($57 million) to become the second most watched movie in Japanese theatres that year.

His movies are colorful and vibrant and appear to follow in Oscar-winning Miyazaki’s footsteps. However, Hosoda regularly chooses themes related to family and identity, which disappoint some fans who seek the more immersive fantasy provided by works out of Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli.

“The Boy and the Beast” explores the relationship between a paternal beast-father figure and a run-away child. His previous film, “Wolf Children”, centered on a single mother raising children fathered by a werewolf.

Hosoda said his deeper exploration of the meaning of self-identity in an extremely homogeneous nation are often lost on viewers.

“I think there are possibly people in the audience here who were not able to understand that. And that, in a way, is representative of Japan today,” he said.

Hosoda is hopeful for the future of Japan’s animation industry despite the fact that more and more animators rely on computer graphics to polish their work.

“There are, or should be, multiple correct ways to express oneself in animation,” he said.

“If you start saying that only Disney or Pixar animations are the right kind of animations, that just becomes very boring. If everything needs to have computer graphics,then you lose a lot of the richness in expression available in animations,” he added.

“The World Of Mamoru Hosoda” retrospective runs from October 25 to November 3 at the Tokyo International Film Festival and will include movies such as the critically acclaimed “Summer Wars”.

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2016.

(Source: www.japantoday.com)