Final Thoughts on The Hayao Miyazaki Collection

Just a few short weeks ago I had seen but two of Hayao Miyazaki's films. Now, I've seen eight and the remaining three (Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle and Ponyo, all being covered for the box set by Ben) will be ticked off sooner rather than later.

Watching most of the Miyazaki oeuvre in this manner has felt like being given the keys to the toy shop at Christmas. How fans of the director must have pined for new releases, especially given the five year plus gaps between some of the films. Miyazaki is a crafter of worlds, a creator of escape, a master of simple passionate narratives that eschew the complicated lore and set up of things like Harry Potter and throw you unprepared into emotive world's you accept as normal. This set is as close as film gets to a multi-faceted page-turner.

On the collection's sole video extra, Miyazaki's 90-minute 'official retirement announcement', there's some insight into just why the director and animator communicates so well through floating castles and anthropomorphic pigs. Though he does get going towards the end, Miyazaki does appear to be one uninterested in waste when it comes to communication. When asked about the chance of a sequel to NausicaƤ Of The Valley Of The Wind - during, lets not forget, his retirement announcement - the director pauses, slowly picks up his microphone, says 'no' and then puts it down again. A request a few questions later from a Korean journalist for a message to his Korean fans gets a similar answer. Miyazaki the great storyteller is not going to craft great stories from such meagre beginnings.

There is though some insight from him into where these films come from, and also into the interests he seeks to explore through them. It's interesting to hear that Miyazaki is not an avid consumer of his own genre. 'I don't know what Japanimation is' he says, claiming he only 'listens to the radio a little' when working on a film. The director's films feel so far above many of his peers, it as though they exist inside some form of cultural bubble of his own making. Now it seems confirmed that this is in fact the truth. How many other animation directors, for example, admit to a preponderance and distracting interaction with Dante's The Divine Comedy, that threatened to derail his latest, and last, production?

There is also some discussion of one of my main takeaways from these films, and surely one of Miyazaki's defining fascinations: flight. The Wind Rises, a film I rate as highly as many of the director's more celebrated works is a fitting culmination for someone who spends time in his retirement announcement talking about receiving a technical book on planes that he found fascinating, proudly declaring it 'probably the only one in Japan'. The fascination with flight he holds, in films from Kiki's Delivery Service to NausicaƤ to nearly everything else in this set, speaks again to his simple understanding of our childlike desires: who hasn't wished to spread their arms and take off? In Miyazaki's hands that wish becomes a Fantasy and the Fantasy becomes something much grander and more important.

Perhaps, on that note, the main thing to take from Miyazaki's final press conference is his description of his 'message', his mantra for film-making, the thing that he has been getting at for so many years. All he wants to do, he says, is to communicate that 'this world makes life worth living'. If only more directors governed their work with such simple clarity.

The Hayao Miyazaki Collection brings together all 11 of the director's feature films, from The Castle of Cagliostro to The Wind Rises, on Blu-ray for the first time. It is released in the UK on Monday 8th December 2014.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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