Tagged: anime, hayao miyazaki, princess mononoke, studio ghibli
28 June 2009
There is a nice little overview of Princess Mononoke here by A.O. Scott in the NYTimes.
I’m a big fan of Hayao Miyazaki, and Princess Mononoke is, I think, his masterpiece.
I don’t know if this has ever been a subject of analysis, but when I first saw it I was wondering what sort of influence Kurosawa has on Miyazaki. There are, I think, a number of stylistic similarities – one that comes to mind is the use of slow motion and silences at key moments. To me, the moment when the monster strides across the countryside, flowers blooming at his footfall, while the soundtrack falls to complete silence, is pure Kurosawa. But more fundamentally his philosophical concerns are very similar and his use of popular narrative forms and his mix of Japanese and Western myths and storylines seem very Kurosawa-like.
I’ve often thought about whether any living film maker can be considered a true heir to Kurosawa, in terms of complete technical mastery and broad intellectual scope. Nearly everything I’ve read on the subject identifies the 1970’s American film makers as his heirs in this sense, but nobody mentions any Japanese film makers (probably for the obvious reason that there aren’t any even remotely close to him). But if anyone comes close, I think it is modern animators, with Miyazaki to the fore.
I think the closest contemporary director to Akira Kurosawa is Yoji Yamada. Twilight Samurai and Hidden Blade feel incredibly similar to Kurosawa films in style, aesthetic and meaning. I was amazed at the similarity.
29 June 2009
I enjoyed Twilight Samurai a lot, but I found Hidden Blade to be very overwrought – I thought the ending was far too sentimental. Apart from the period thing, it hadn’t quite occurred to me that there were Kurosawa similarities, but then again, I wasn’t really into Kurosawa so much when I watched it, so I wasn’t paying attention in that way. I guess I’d better get one of them on dvd and have another look.
Ugetsu, ironically I was on the Akira Kurosawa Digital Archive last night while at work and I just clicked on a random link that was in Japanese. The irony is that I clicked on a feature article with Kurosawa discussing how much he liked Princess Mononoke and Hayao Miyazaki (does ot get more ironic – of all the Studio Ghibli films you could have mentioned, you mentioned the one he seemed to like most). It also mentioned My Neighbour Totoro but the whole feature article was in French so I had a tough time reading it (despite having studied French for 5 years back in ther day).
To push the irony further, I also happened to stumble across an interview of Hayao Miyazaki and Akira Kurosawa. I think Kurosawa was interviewing Miyazaki which is interesting given that the former is the more renowned director. I think a google search of “akira kurosawa hiyao miyazaki” should bring the interview to the top of the search results.
Then again, you may have read these articles before. If you are unaware of them, your estimations may very well be spot on.
Wow, thanks for that Ryan, I’d no idea those articles existed. Funny thing, it never crossed my mind that Kurosawa and Miyazaki would know each other, but of course their careers did overlap a little.
I haven’t even started on the Digital Archive, it seems such an intimidating wave of information (and my pathetic few words of Japanese isn’t enough for me to read through it).
5 July 2009
I’ve been musing over this ever since Ugetsu’s first post, and I think that the idea of Miyazaki as Kurosawa’s heir is worth exploring further. Unfortunately, even if I have seen most of Miyazaki films (My Neighbor Totoro being my favourite), I cannot really comment much more since I have never watched his films with this possibility in mind. There certainly are many shared themes, at least.
In some book somewhere, and I’m really sorry that I can’t be more precise here, there is a mention that when Kurosawa first met Miyazaki (or wrote a letter to him?), he praised the director for his works and especially congratulated him for, I think, Grave of the Fireflies. The mistake being that while the film is another Studio Ghibli work, it wasn’t directed by Miyazaki, but Isao Takahata. I’m fairly sure that this was mentioned in Waiting for the Weather, but I can’t now locate the passage, so perhaps it’s somewhere else.
The interview Ryan mentioned may be the same one that is available in English at Nausicaa.net: part 1 and part 2.
Edit: Actually it isn’t, because this interview was conducted before Princess Mononoke.
Yeah that was one of the interviews I was on about, although originally I was referring to an interview from the Akira Kurosawa Digital Archive which mentions Totoro, Mononoke and others.
1 March 2010
Apparently, a collection of essays, interviews and other material by Hayao Miyazaki includes an essay on Kurosawa’s Ikiru. Or that’s what this review suggests.
4 August 2014
On the subject of the use of slo-mo in Princess Mononoke I mentioned in my first post above, and its similarities (as I see it) to the occasional use of slo-mo in early Kurosawa films, here is an interesting super cut showing the many ways its used in (mostly) modern films. I’m not sure it contributes much, but it is a fascinating compilation.
To quote ‘The Mighty Boosh’: “A deer with a human face?”
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