The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness (2013)

The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness (2013)

Cast: Hayao Miyazaki, Toshio Suzuki, Iosao Takhata
Director: Mami Sunada
Music: Masakatsu Takagi
Studio: Dwango/ GKIDS/ Cinedigm GK4626 [1/27/15]
Video: 16:9 color
Audio: Japanese DD 5.1 surround
Subtitles: English
Extras: “Digest” (short film), “The Kingdom According to Ushiko,” Trailers, Previews from GKIDS animated releases
Length: 118 minutes
Rating: ****

This is a heartfelt and emotional look insidide the enigmatic world of Studio Ghibli in Japan, probably the leading producer of always excellent animated features in the world.  Among their hits have been My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke (the biggest-grossing Japanese film ever), Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service, and the current The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. 

The genius behind Studio Ghibli has been eminent director Miyazaki, whose unusual spirits and animals have been central to many of his animated films. (They even maintain a museum of the characters and stuffed replicas of them to sell.) The work going into his supposed final film and its launch, The Wind Rises, provides a major part of the documentary. (That film was an Oscar nominee.) While this is basically the story of the designer of the Zero airplane, Miyazaki himself is strongly anti-war, and this has caused some controversy. Miyazaki’s own philosophy is quite pragmatic.  He believes himself to be a creature of the 20th Century, not of the 21st, and that the freedom of expression he enjoyed in the past is rapidly being curtailed.

Not only are some of the over 100 workers at Studio Ghibli allowed to make their own comments on the place and working there, but we get a fine picture of the unusual 72-year-old Miyazaki both from his close associates and himself. It’s a quite intimate look into the passions, dreams and dedication of the creators of these unique animated movies. We even get to meet the studio cat, Ushiko. It is reported to know enough to stay away from Miyazki’s work area in its perusals of the studio. There is also a moving portion at the end concerning the end of Studio Ghibli since Miyazaki is now evidently retiring. It was interesting that all the older leaders active in Studio Ghibli smoked incessantly; I thought I was watching a French film. (This has been released on Blu-ray but only in Japan. Snort!)

—John Sunier

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