Friday, September 18, 2015

Family Movie Night: The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness

Title: The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness
Director: Mami Sunada
Original Release: 2013
Choice: My Wife's
My Overall Rating: 5 stars out of 5
via That Movie Guy
Studio Ghibli films have been the great pop culture revelation of my parenting life.  My Wife and I watched Spirited Away without my daughter but we have discovered all of the others together as a family.  The lush, hand-drawn animation, the sophisticated stories and strong female protagonists have provided wondrous inspiration. The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness provides a glimpse into the creative workings of the operation.  The documentary follows producer Toshio Suzuki and directors Isao Hakata and, of course, Hayao Miyazaki over the course of a year as the studio struggles to finish two major projects.  Both The Wind Rises (directed by Miyazaki) and The Tale of Princess Kaguya (Hakata) were initially scheduled for release on the same day.  But due to the two directors' differing work habits, things didn't quite work out that way.

I'm a sucker for any exploration of the creative process, especially when I already have tremendous admiration for the creators and their work.  It's wonderful watching hand sketches come to life.  Miyazaki, not surprisingly, is an eccentric and enigmatic character.  He reveals his story generating process to be decidedly non-linear, with little regard for narrative coherence.  He says that underlings have confessed to him that they don't entirely understand his stories and admits that he himself isn't quite sure what Spirited Away is about - rather shocking considering that it's easily his most critically revered film.

One expects a certain level of deifying from those who work for and with Miyazaki.  While everyone in the movie obviously respects and admires him, there is also evident fear.  We never hear reports of outright cruelty but he's clearly a demanding boss.  One animator says that most people don't stay with the studio long - even the most talented find the old man hard to take after a while.  The camera's perspective, though, is more forgiving.  It's hard not to like Miyazaki.  But then again, I don't have to work for him.

The film provides a deeply loving view of the Ghibli movies and, tangentially, the city of Tokyo itself.  Both the city and the country are near and dear to my heart so I'm grateful for the brief visit.  It's not a particularly kid-friendly documentary.  My daughter's patience was tested by the end.  But it was lovely for My Wife and me.

12 comments:

  1. Oh, I'm going to have to watch this.
    Spirited Away is, inexplicably, my favorite Ghibli movie.

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    1. Oh, I think it's easily explained. The story is indeed quite odd but the world building is outstanding. I know the G word is overused but I think the bathhouse is certainly a work of genius.

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  2. Spirited Away was an awesome movie.

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  3. I don't recall ever hearing of this one before! Thanks for sharing. Glad you and your wife enjoyed it so much. :)
    ~Jess

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    1. I don't think it ever made it to theaters in our area. Thank goodness for Netflix!

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  4. I have loved so many of the Ghibli movies--they are auto-rent/buys for our family, but I'd never heard of this! (Not that my kids will watch it.)
    Thanks for sharing!

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    1. If you love the movies, this is essential viewing.

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  5. This does sound like a fascinating documentary and it makes me realize I haven't seen enough of his work. A great review

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    1. Given your design interests, I expect you'd find it interesting, even without knowing his work so well (but of course, you should definitely get on that). The movie never gets too technical but if you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall in an animation studio, here's your chance.

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  6. This does sound like a very interesting film and one of a complex man

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    1. Great fly on the wall movie for anyone who loves films.

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