So I'm back from the first of three screenings at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Absolutely fantastic film. If this is really Miyazaki's last feature film he's leaving on a high note.
Best way to sum it up is with this gif:
That's pretty much the whole movie. Sure there's still the love story but the above gif is an amazing representation of what you'll get when you go see it. Complete with making all the sound effects with your mouth. That's not a joke. All the sound effects are actually done by humans. Everything from the air plane engines and rickety structures, the trains and wind and even the Great Kanto earthquake. That unique sound design combined with Ghibli's animation and Joe Hisaishi score is an amazing experience.
The movie is literally made of dreams. Jiro's dreams. Caproni's dreams. Junker's dreams. Miyazaki's dreams. Every other persons’ who ever found planes to be beautiful. This seems like both a love letter, yet another shameless acknowledgement of Miyazaki's towards early aviation and a lament that those days are long gone. I think it was on /m/ that someone posted a transcript of a TV show where Yoshiyuki Tomino and another guest got into an argument on what the movie was about. The other guest saying it's about the girl but Tomino insisting it's about the airplane: that he, Miyazaki and everyone from those older generations were obsessed with it. You can judge for yourself when you see it but I'm inclined to agree. But I'm very much biased (rant-y personal addition at the end).
The love story, while quite beautiful seemed like it could have been a movie of its own. Then again the story of the girl is a separate source from Jiro’s life and it was Miyazaki who created the completely fictional relationship between the two. It’s in no way detrimental and does work overall, emphasizing that Jiro's head is in the clouds so often it's hard to imagine it ever comes back to the ground.
On the way home I ended up sitting behind two Japanese girls on the subway who were also at the screening and were discussing it the whole ride with seemingly great appreciation. My moon is extremely weak but amongst all the talk of Nahoko, airplanes, Jiro’s dreams, etc. what kept coming up was 二回目, they wanted to see it again. I’m very much in agreement. I really want to see it again but judging by today’s rush line it might not be possible for the other two screenings.
So where does the master, Mr. Anno fit into all this? Well he wasn’t bad at all, but at the same time the role isn’t super dynamic and doesn’t require extreme ranges (except for like one or two bits) so normal everyday Anno did quite fine, just as the interviews a few pages earlier say. Not much else to add.
Geoffrey Wexler, Studio Ghibli’s Chief Gaijin represented the company at the screening. He answered a few questions, the most interesting of which was about the sound. He said Miyazaki wanted to do all the sound effects himself but the staff denied him because he’s already too busy with all the other duties so someone else had to do it all. He also let it be known that the movie has Mono sound, which apparently no one ever believes but that’s another thing Miyazaki wanted and won out on.
The most important thing he mentioned was the release dates:Academy run, subtitled, in NYC and LA, Nov 8-14
Wider North American release, dubbed (and possibly subbed too) is in February 2014.
I highly recommend people go see it if they have the chance.
While the movie isn’t all sunshine and rainbows it depressed me on a very personal level. I used to dream just like Jiro. I even started down the same path, eventually earning a B.Eng in Aerospace Engineering. But the 5 years it took me to finish the 4 year program pretty much killed all of my dreams. I struggled through the last 2 years so as not to make the first 3 seem like a waste but all it did was burn me out completely. I’ve done exactly nothing relevant towards the piece of paper that I’ve earned since I received it in a fancy ceremony that was supposed to be a celebration. It’s been 2.5 years since then and I still want nothing to do with the modern aerospace industry. In the film Caproni compares engineers to artists. That just isn’t the case anymore. Everything has become so advanced, complicated and expensive that there’s no longer any room for an individual human’s touch. Everything is optimized by computers and passes through so many hands that there’re only roles left and the actors don’t matter. Everyone is yet another faceless mook, sitting at a computer in a cubicle, like hundreds of millions of people around the world, working on a tiny part that’s part of a sub-component that’s part of a component that’s part of a sub-system in one of the hundreds of integrated systems all of which sit for half a decade in digital space only and whenever things do make it to the robots in manufacturing you just don’t care because the classes you take to become an engineer in the first place kill anything resembling creativity, individuality or even basic pride in your work to make you a drone in the system.
There just isn’t any path to realizing that kind of dream anymore. Unless you’re a billionaire willing to start up your own crazy venture. Even then the mook system still applies.
EDIT: took so long to type this I've been beaten on the wider release news. oh well.