Not much of an introduction tonight, just a snippet from the documentary about Miyazaki, The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness.
When I was in high school, I read a magazine article about Princess Mononoke which included some of the frames and started counting the days to the theatrical release.
I don’t often read or hear anything about films before their release, so I don’t often have this sort of anticipation for a film. Even when I do know of a film before the release, I rarely get as excited as I was for Princess Mononoke.
I saw the film twice in theaters, bought the DVD as soon as it came out, and watched it several more times. I loved it.
But upon falling in love with Princess Mononoke, I did not immediately go down the Miyazaki rabbithole, as I probably would – and often do – when I now encounter an auteur.
I think perhaps I didn’t immediately realize just how special Miyazaki was upon seeing that first film.
So he fell off my radar, and I didn’t think about him much until years later, when I was in my college dorm room, as a freshman, and I happened to hear about the film when it won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
I remember feeling a little surprised, because I was a bit more into Anime than the average person –I had got into it as a kid, always watched the Saturday morning Anime whenever Sci-Fi channel was running it, and I had rented a bunch of pretty obscure stuff on VHS from the local video shop as a kid, even bought a few things that I heard about which looked cool but I could not get to see otherwise.
So it seemed odd to me to hear about an Anime from a mainstream source like the Academy Awards, when I had previously felt like an insider.
Perhaps it was for this reason I had low expectations for the film–if it was mainstream enough for the Academy, how great could it be?
I believe I got a hold of a screener the night of the Awards and watched it that immediately.
For the first ten minutes, I remember thinking, yea, it’s not another Mononoke…
But after about thirty minutes, I was transfixed, and felt myself ‘spirited away’ into the strange world of the film.
I think perhaps Miyazaki may be the film maker who has most often led me to this other worldly experience. I felt this way after both Spirited Away and Mononoke, and with what are now my two favorite Miyazaki films, Porco Rosso and The Wind Rises.
What I like about that clip we started the evening with is how it gets at what makes Miyazaki so special–his ability to look at the ordinary and everyday with so much imagination, to transform this world into an entirely new one, one that is both familiar and full of surprise, at the same time. It’s almost like he has the eyes and imagination of a child, and he can take us with him on his fantastic journeys of the imagination.
Isn’t it fun to see things that way?