[THE KINGDOM OF DREAMS AND MADNESS opens in Akron on Friday January 2nd at the Nightlight Cinema.]
Review by Charles Cassady, Jr.
Review by Charles Cassady, Jr.
So, taking the lead in the genre by default is Mami Sunada's Zen-like and elusive THE KINGDOM OF DREAMS AND MADNESS. It visits the sanctum of one of the very best-known Japanimation studios - one sometimes compared to classic Disney for its stature and quality - the legendary Studio Ghibli, and its guiding luminary, Hayao Miyazaki. Despite a title that sounds like a Werner Herzog nonfiction journey-into-darkness-or-some-remote-hellhole-or-both, KINGDOM OF DREAMS AND MADNESS is actually a very mild pic (but long for nonfiction, nearly two hours), with Sunada narrating briefly that she's tickled to be allowed into the cloistered work environment of Miyazaki, responsible for some of the most popular anime of the past 50 years, including MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO, CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO, LAPUTA - CASTLE IN THE SKY, PONYO and other worldwide faves
Those expecting a glossy, PR-heavy, Leonard Maltin-quoting retrospective in the self-congratulatory manner of 2009's THE PIXAR STORY will be surprised at the low-key approach that doesn't even show clips from Studio Ghibli masterworks until a brief montage near the end.
Instead the daily, somewhat ascetic, even mundane routine at Studio Ghibli, in Koganei, part of greater
A certain rivalry develops between the two works-in-progress. We never meet Takahata, and
speaks of his former master in wildly contradictory terms, sometimes as a
procrastinator who accomplishes nothing on time or under budget, other times
with glowing praise. Late in the film we learn that Miyazaki
plans to retire with THE WIND RISES, so maybe that gets his emotions a little
wound up. Hard to say.
As far as any other concrete biographical details,
mentions a marriage, making it out like a chore he reluctantly undertook. If
this world-class animator sounds a bit like a curmudgeon, well that is how he
comes across. But Miyazaki’s
criticism doesn’t even spare himself. He is embarrassed by PORCO ROSSO,
a war drama about a fighter-pilot pig that the fandom quite likes.
And he wonders, in the big picture of life, whether movies are really that important and worth the trouble - or just like so many things, “rubbish.” Making Hayao Miyazaki my pick to host both the Oscars and the Golden Globes. Tina Fay and Neil Patrick Harris can take a hike.
I can imagine some anime fans being impatient with
. Where is the
spectacle? The glamour? The red-carpet premieres? The topless mistress-sunbathers
OF DREAMS AND MADNESS Cannes? We only see a small bit
of the actor-voiceover recordings for THE WIND RISES. No kidding, the people in
this office could just be making widgets half the time, under a cranky
eccentric-inventor type (with a cat mascot), and the movie would be similar.
Then again, Walt Disney never dropped his guard and let people poke around informally in his inner
the way this movie does. The
film shows how Ghibli films arise from careful collaborations in an atmosphere
that is almost like family, rather than studio-sweatshop with Variety-reading, TMZ-watching showbiz sharks jockeying for power and promotions. Just don’t expect an
encyclopedic appreciation of Magic
and his many worlds. (2 ¾ out of 4 stars)