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.