The Ghibli Studio and Other Disappointments

in 38th International Animated Film Festival, Annecy

by Claus Löser

This year’s Annecy festival was framed by the famous Ghibli Studio from Tokyo, Japan. The tale of Princess Kaguya (Kaguya-hime ne monogatari) by Isao Takahata is an epic fairytale about a princess from the moon, who brings happiness and glory but also sadness and harm to an old couple. The poor woodcutter and his wife move from the mountains to the capital where they want to become a part of the upper classes. They are never accepted as “real” aristocrats and lose their child again to the moon. This touching story is told in a charming vintage style with hand drawn animation. It’s full of magnificent moments and lovely details, but it’s also very long; not only because of the 140 minute running time. For example, sometimes the ceremonies shown in the film are without end; they go on and on.

Also, the most famous grandmaster of Japanese animation, Hayao Miyazaki, was honored with a special screening at the Annecy festival. Announced as his last real movie, The Wind Rises (Kaze Tachinu) is a sentimental view on the history of Japanese aviation, told as based on the rise of Jiro from a little boy to a genius of aircraft engineering. Miyazaki was admired worldwide for his visionary worlds full of ghosts and miracles, never before seen in cinemas. Maybe it’s a pity that at the end of his career he has become realistic. Most of the scenes created now could also have been made for a traditional photographed movie. Seeing this film also makes one a little discontented, as the political and historical backgrounds of his story are neglected. Jiro himself and the aviation itself seem like victims of the time, not as integrated parts of it.

Whoever was interested in the inner life of the Ghibli Studio must have been satisfied to watch The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness (Yume to kyoki no Okoko) by Mami Sunada. Two hours, including everything about the studio and the figures behind it, was presented. It was very informative, but it was not a film, it was more like a bonus track for a DVD or BluRay.

So all in all it was a little bit disappointing — what was viewed from the deserving Ghibli Studio in Annecy. Otherwise it’s nice to see an anti-Disney position like this brought to the screen.

Edited by Tara Judah