Riffs - Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind, Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea

Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind is the rare Miyazaki anime that barely contains any riffs on his previous work (one shot of a crowd at the end echoes Horus, Prince of the Sun, Nausicaa's spiritual cousin), but it has inspired many quotes and tributes in later films.  This film was in many ways a touchstone to the second half of Hayao Miyazaki's career, obviously because its success led to the founding of Studio Ghibli, but because of its darker, more complex and ambiguous tone.  And that's what reminded me of this particular riff.

Take a look at the screenshots from the ending to Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind and Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea.  It's a very tight, crowded composition, very skillfully laid out, communicates all that you need to know.  It also serves as a big emotional finish, and the audience comes away feeling happy and relieved.  It's a very loud and abrupt curtain bow, and I'm always reminded of the way John Lennon cuts the ending to "She's So Fine" on side one of Abbey Road.

It's very true that many of Miyazaki's directorial films end with a sudden stop, while the true climax is at least a scene or two before.  They don't end so much as they stop cold - party over, whoops, outta time.  But this quick run for the exits carries far more weight in Nausicaa because, frankly, the whole thing is a three-card monte.  This so-called finish is the slickest scam Miyazaki ever pulled.

I know this is a subject deserves its own post, so we'll keep it short for now.  The game is afoot, the cake is a lie, and nothing in the Nausicaa film is really resolved.  Watch yer backs.


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Daniel said...

You're not really suggesting that Miyazaki's next film is going to be a Nausicaa sequel?..

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

What? No, of course not. Miyazaki doesn't do sequels, and I can't ever end my essays on cliffhangers because I always get sidetracked.

I didn't have a hidden agenda with the final sentence, honest. I was just trying to finish up and get to bed for a change (yawn). My only point was that all the major conflicts in the Nausicaa film remain unresolved, and there really isn't a "happy" ending.

No, I'm afraid the only way there will be a Nausicaa "sequel" is if some weaselly Hollywood producer gets their evil claws on the rights after Miyazaki dies, and then Michael Bay is hired to direct. It would be loud and incredibly stupid, and outrage every Miyazaki fan in the world. It would then make $500 million at the box office, win all sorts of awards...and lo, the seventh seal would be broken and the world would end. Amen.

Daniel said...

Was a while ago that I watched either, but I think I spotted a Cagliostro riff in Nausicaa, not sure if you already noticed this one. At the end of Cagliostro, when Clarisse is reunited with her dog and it licks her face. There is a similar shot in Nausicaa right after she saves Yupa from the Ohmu at the beginning, and the bird creatures lick her face

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

Bingo! You are correct, sir. Help yourself to some green Irish beer.

I have those screenshots ready to go and I'll be publishing them soon. I may use Riffs as the blog's early morning post...we'll see how that goes.

booz0r said...

Miyazaki doesn't do sequels? Wasn't a Porco Rosso sequel announced not too long ago?

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

Ah, the much-reported "Porco Rosso sequel." I think that's an instance of something being misunderstood and then being beamed across the world to a thousand websites. Eventually, it's just taken as Gospel Truth.

In truth, I think Miyazaki was speculating about story ideas for future comics, perhaps basing on the same world as Porco Rosso, which was the Adriatic Sea between the two World Wars. And that period - early 20th Century - happens to be Miyazaki's favorite era.

For the record, there is no official announcement for Miyazaki's future projects. We can assume that he's in the early production stages for his next feature film, which should close out Ghibli's 5-Year-Plan. He will also stay busy with short-form comics and probably short films for the Ghibli Museum. Beyond that, sorry, nothing. No Porco Rosso sequel.

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