Movie Review: Hayao Miyazaki and the Ghibli Museum (2005)

Movie Review: Hayao Miyazaki and the Ghibli Museum

Since my last post mentioned this, I should give this DVD a proper explanation. Released in Japan in 2005, Hayao Miyazaki and the Ghibl Museum is a documentary about the studio's famous museum in Mitaka, Japan. It remains something of a Mecca for Ghibli Freaks throughout the world.

The video is narrated by Isao Takahata, who walks us around with Goro Miyazaki, who has run the museum for many years. I know he passed the baton to someone else during the production of Gedo Senki, but I don't know if that move was permanent. His time would be more wisely spent learning from the masters at the studio instead, especially if he hopes for a future as a film director.

This documentary gives us a good opportunity to learn something about Goro, try to gauge what sort of person he is. There was a lot of dirty laundry aired during the production of his picture, and I think he came away damaged by the experienced. The backlash in Japan was very real and it's hard to say whether the public will warm up to him in the future. If Goro thought he was under a lot of pressure before, just wait until he begins his second movie. That will truly be the thing that makes or breaks him, and will sharply determine the future of Studio Ghibli.

I'm probably getting away from the script here. But this is a genuine concern for the fans, and there's still a great deal of mystery around the man. I'm sure if we were able to visit the Ghibl Museum and find Goro Miyazaki standing there, we'd be more interested in learning more about him than anything else in the place.

Anyway, this video goes into detail on the museum, its art motifs, its European style which stretches back to the productions of Heidi and Marco in the 1970's. We see the intimate degree that location scouting played in the design of Takahata's and Miyazaki's productions. The influence of the Neorealists looms large, possibly the single greatest influence on the filmmakers. Even today, the hard work and dedication learned from the days of Heidi, Marco and Anne are present in every Ghibli animation.

As you can see from the cover, that is the great Yuri Norstein at the museum, resting next to the giant robot from "Farewell Beloved Lupin" and Castle in the Sky. Friends and mentors alike arrive to pay their respects, including our own John Lasseter. Hopefully, he's taking notes. I'd really prefer to see a Pixar museum that was designed like this place, a strange brew of playground and university art college, than something purely commercial (sorry, Disneyland). Once again, I find myself presented with something imaginative and brilliant, but completely alien to America.

What does Lasseter think of this place? What elements inspire him? What does he point to when he seeks to discover a new idea? What happens when the Pixar artists congregate here? Will we see influence in their work? Will we one day see this sandbox art museum here in the States? Could they even pull it off if they tried? Or would the corporate suits dig their claws into everything and poison the artists' original vision?

There isn't a whiff of commercialism anywhere near the Ghibli Museum. Miyazaki consciously created something that was pure art, creativity for its own sake. This isn't an elaborate pyramid scheme to program children to obediently shell out endless sums of money. Merchandizing! Merchandizing!

Museum exhibits routinely include works from around the world (yes, including Pixar), going into immense detail. The aim is to inspire children young and old to create. Ghibli also has produced many short films exclusively for this venue. Miyazaki has created several shorts over the years; the Totoro semi-sequel Mei and the Kittenbus would likely be the most famous. But they are not intended for commercial screenings. You won't find them at the multiplex, and there won't be any DVDs. Miyazaki is strictly adamant about that. The only way you'll ever discover these films is to see them at the museum.

Such a unique place. Has there ever been a place or time when the artists held complete control for so long? It's completely unheard of in the movie business. It's almost like a vision from some other world, some long lost land. I wasn't joking when I said the Ghibli Museum is a Mecca for the Ghibli Freaks of the world. Sooner or later, you simply must suck in your gut and make your pilgrimmage. Either that or hand in your membership card. Really is that simple.


Cory Gross said...

September 2009! I just have to make sure I move heaven and earth to get tickets. It's one of the places I MUST go in Japan.

magicsteven said...

i take it that dvd doesn't have english subtitles?

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

Actually, unless I am mistaken, this DVD does include subtitles. That's a real nice addition for us in the West. You can find this at any import shop of your choosing.

Anonymous said...

I moved to Tokyo in September and I've already been to the Ghibli Museum three times, and next week I plan a fourth. I'm trying to watch all of the museum films. It really is a wonderful, organic place. There is nothing quite like it.

Tim Maughan said...

Great article, and lovely site.

I was lucky enough to visit the Ghibli Museum in November, and pick up this DVD - though sadly I havn't actualy had time to sit and watch it yet. Maybe this weekend.

If you get the chance, have a read of my thoughts on the place here.

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