Following the tandem release of Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises and Isao Takahata’s The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, the revered Japanese animation outfit Studio Ghibli announced that it would close temporarily to consider its future in the wake of Miyazaki’s retirement. That news came after Mami Sunada (Ending Note: Death of a Japanaese Salesman) had completed this intimate 2013 documentary about Ghibli, but it feels like a fond farewell nevertheless. At nearly two hours, the movie is too leisurely paced for its own good, but for film buffs it’s worthwhile viewing: what promises at first to be a meek hagiography of Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Princess Mononoke) turns out to be a fairly revealing look at his not-quite-friendly rivalry with Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies) and their complex, decades-long relationships with producer Toshio Suzuki, who founded the studio with them back in 1985. Sunada provides some fascinating glimpses of Miyazaki at work, but they’re leavened by his dark assessment of the studio’s future as traditional hand-drawn animation is nudged onto the ash heap of history by digital cartoons. “Maybe there was a time when you could make movies that mattered,” he remarks, “but now?” In Japanese with subtitles.
Kingdom of Dreams and Madness
1 hour 58 min • 2013