Thursday, June 16, 2005


I was at the library tonight for my weekly visit, and I wandered past the newspaper rack and spotted the New York Times from the other day, with the Arts and Leisure section on top. Therein I spotted an image that, though I have never seen it before, was unmistakably a frame from a film by Hayao Miyazaki. Sure enough, it was a still from Howl's Moving Castle, the latest work by the master from Japan. And here's the accompanying article.

In an interview last week, on the morning before his latest movie, Howl's Moving Castle, had its New York premiere, he spoke about the new technology with a mixture of resignation and resistance. "I've told the people on my CGI staff" - at Studio Ghibli, the company he founded with Isao Takahata and Toshio Suzuki in 1985 - "not to be accurate, not to be true. We're making a mystery here, so make it mysterious."

That conscious sense of mystery is the core of Mr. Miyazaki's art. Spend enough time in his world - something you can do at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, which is presenting a sumptuous retrospective of his and Mr. Takahata's work - and you may find your perception of your own world refreshed, as it might be by a similarly intensive immersion in the oeuvre of Ansel Adams, J. M. W. Turner or Monet. After a while, certain vistas - a rolling meadow dappled with flowers and shadowed by high cumulus clouds, a range of rocky foothills rising toward snow-capped peaks, the fading light at the edge of a forest - deserve to be called Miyazakian.

That is absolutely true. After watching Miyazaki's films for several years, there really are times when I look at the world around me and think, "This could have come from one of his movies." Usually it's a particular sky or cloudscape that does it.

What I adore about Miyazaki's visuals, beyond the sheer majesty of the compositions themselves, is the attention to small details you might not even notice. (This is also something I've admired in George Lucas.) In My Neighbor Totoro, for example, there's a scene where a bicycle messenger visits the central family, and we see his bike parked outside the house in what must be a two-second shot. But it's not a static shot, as it would be for any other filmmaker: Miyazaki actually animated the front wheel, lazily turning in the breeze.

Via the same article, I see that New York City's Museum of Modern Art is hosting a film festival of Studio Ghibli's films. I'm not often jealous of my friends downstate, but I sure am now.

UPDATE: Link to NYT article fixed. Oops. (I have comments, people! Let me know about broken links!)

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