Monday, September 1, 2014

Hiroyuki Okiura's new film "A Letter to Momo" at Landmark Theatres: Sept 5 - 25 | The Legacy of Studio Ghibli & The Future of Japanese Animation

Years after it's Japanese release, Landmark Theatres hosts a brief subtitled run of Hiroyuki Okiura's "A Letter to Momo", winner of the Grand Prize at the 2012 New York International Children's Film Festival and Best Picture the same year at the Future Film Festival. NYICFF's presenter, GKids having picked up the rights to US theatrical distribution, beginning this month domestic audiences will finally get to see Hiroyuki Okiura's touchingly poetic, "‘A Letter to Momo’: A World that Teaches and Tugs". The film's style and approach to visual storytelling is both contemporary in it's sparsity and technique and more traditional in it's pacing and richness of character focus and emotional nuance. Quite literally, there hasn't been work of this quality issuing from the major studios in Japan ("Ghost in the Shell"'s Production I.G gave life to Okiura's vision) since the establishing work of the now-legendary Studio Ghibli in the 1980's. The film's lush minimalist palette expresses the expansiveness of the islands of southern Japan where, after the death of her father, quiet, inwardly looking Momo Miyaura and her mother return to live with their uncle and aunt. In this setting Okiura tells a (largely) subdued, personally transformative adventure of the young protagonist. Wherein we witness Momo evolve through her pre-adolescence, face tribulations, adjust to life outside the city and come to terms with challenge, disappointment, hope, change, responsibility and mortality. There's good reason it made Film Comment's best of the year issue, with David Filipi citing the unavoidable qualitative associations with Studio Ghibli, ranking "Momo" high on the list of "Essential Animation: The best in 2013".

Related, in that not only does it focus on the work of the groundbreaking studio and it's visionary founders, but posits where the future of non-commercial animation in Japan may arise, the massive Studio Ghibli Special in Sight & Sound made for essential reading. Featuring many-page sections exploring both the studio's creation of a animation storytelling form of often astounding beauty and richness, their global success, and the most resent news of their struggling to find new directorial voice and a modern-day successor to Hayao Miyazaki. Indicative of this impasse, this summer "Studio Ghibli Announces a Break in Production" while they reassess their current financial state, creative objectives and possible new directions for the studio. The Sight & Sound Special on Ghibli also features chapters dedicated to various highlights of the studio's past, the historic and creative legacy they drew from and the future of the medium as a distinctly Japanese artform. As well as sections dedicated to, Drawing On the Past: Kurosawa, Swallows and Amazons, Russian landscape painting, Moebius, manga and his wartime childhood: Miyazaki’s world is composed of an astonishing variety of elements. Lessons from the Master: Two of Miyazaki’s long-term collaborators – supervising animation director Kosaka Kitaro and producer Suzuki Toshio – offer their insights into working with the great director. The King is Dead: Now that Miyazaki has announced his retirement, where are the Japanese animators who can carry on in the same tradition – and where are the ones who can start something new? And lastly, a gorgeous gallery of environment work and studies from Hayao Miyazaki's final film, The Landscape Art of "The Wind Rises".