The Wind Rises

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The Wind Rises, the most recent and perhaps final film from animation master Hayao Miyazaki, opens with this Paul Valéry quote: “The wind rises… You must attempt to live.”

Also, characters in the film quote Christina Rossetti’s poem:

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

Jiro Horikoshi has dream meetings with the famous Italian aeronautical engineer Caproni, and in each dream he is asked, “Is the wind rising?” I interpret this repeated question to be asking, “are you living?” For a creative person, this is the same as, “are you creating?” The Rossetti poem provides the urgency, we have limited time, we face mortality. We don’t know what life is, but we can see its effects. Caproni also states that an artist or engineer will work at peak for ten years. That time is precious.

This film, it should be noted, is not necessarily an accurate portrayal of Horikoshi’s life. Miyazaki uses plenty of creative license in order to tell that story that he is interested in telling. What is creative inspiration? What is life? What to do when creative inspiration and life are at odds? These as the questions the film asks, the main character grapples with, and Miyazaki seems to be mulling over himself.

Jiro’s dreams seem to be synonymous with his creativity, and his desire to fly. Flying in dreams indicates personal fulfillment. His dream to create a beautiful airplane is representative of each person’s desire to find their own fulfillment. But what if the only way to realize his dream is to design a machine of war and death? Caproni posits this question directly, and essentially says he prefers a world with the beautiful creation, even if the result is suffering. Jiro doesn’t give a verbal response, but does continue designing airplanes, knowing their ultimate use.

Meanwhile he falls in love with Naoko. The brevity of life and love is highlighted by this relationship. By the time he declares his love, she is already dying of tuberculosis.  His love might even have been inspired by the knowledge that her time here is brief.  He doesn’t sacrifice his work for her, he doesn’t need to, and he perhaps is inspired by his love for her to be a better designer (as is suggested earlier in the film by the sardonic Honjo).

Jiro’s relationship with Naoko is paralleled with the development of the Zero Fighter, from the paper airplane that cements their relationship, to the the test flight, that takes him away from home, and provides Naoko with an opportunity to leave, before her illness gets worse, so he can remember her the way she was.

Miyazaki wisely balances the Naoko character, a victim of illness, with the invented character of Jiro’s sister, Kayo. Kayo is a strong and independent female character, who at an early age decides to become a doctor. Instead of dying, it is her vocation to help people live.

Hayao Miyazaki cites declining eye sight for his retirement from animation. But also, he has “retired” before, after Princess Mononoke (1997). Ever since Mononoke, he’s been on a streak, maintaining the high bar he set with that film. He is still creating manga, though. The wind still rises.

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Post Oscar Movie Lull

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From November to February there’s almost too many films. With awards season in full swing there are plenty of good movies that people are interested in seeing. It’s also the holidays, people are going out to movies with family, it’s school vacation. It’s our busiest time of the year. And then, in like a lamb, comes March.

March begins the Post Oscar Movie Lull. From now until the summer there are fewer movies to choose from (since movies released during this time are rarely nominated for awards), and often they are movies no one has ever heard of. The multiplexes are playing Ride Along and 300: Rise of an Empire, or re-runs of the Oscar winners.

Here’s what we’re doing in the Images Cinema office: reading about exciting new films premiering at SXSW which won’t be available to us until late summer at the earliest, scouring Metacritic, IMDB, and Indie Wire, watching endless streams of trailers, listening to our booking agent sigh at the low-grossing options, waiting anxiously for the wide-release date of Grand Budapest Hotel.

Sometimes this slower period gives indie gems a chance to rise to the surface– movies that would get lost in the sea of Oscar hopefuls and other big name projects. And sometimes there’s just nothing out there. How do we get people to come to the movies during this slow season?

We do our very best to bring you quality films. And that’s what we’re doing this March with The Past, Gloria, and The Wind Rises. These are movies that might not get shown in many theaters, or get much attention outside of art house circles. They probably won’t make much money. We might not get large crowds for them, but these are three movies I am really looking forward to sharing with our community. All three are international films, very different from each other, and you probably won’t see them playing anywhere else in the area.

So, I hope you’ll join us this spring for some challanging, beautiful, international, and rare cinematic experiences. Try something new and unexpected. Treat yourself.

See you at the movies,

Anna

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Nebraska

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My grandpa usually hates movies. He has said to me on more than one occasion, “The only movie ever worth making was The African Queen.” But as we walked out of Nebraska he said, “Anna, I LOVED that movie.”

It’s rare that a movie like Nebraska comes along. It’s a gorgeous black-and-white gem with humor and emotion that many people can relate to. It’s about family, parent-child relationships, dying, living, making choices. It’s about those bleak little run-down towns in the Midwest. It’s about the past and the future. It’s about wanting a truck. I laughed– hard and out loud. I cried quietly behind my glasses. I looked at my dad sitting next to me and thought about my mom who passed away last April. I watched my grandpa smile with recognition, and my grandma jump out of her seat each time June Squibb yelled the F word.

It’s a knockout ensemble cast: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk, and Stacy Keach, all with outstanding performances.

I’ve seen the movie 3 times so far, and can’t wait to see it again. Bring your family, your friends, everyone you know.

There will be an After Images discussion of the film after the 7pm show on Tuesday Feb. 11th. 

NEBRASKA is now playing at Images Cinema through Thursday February 13th. For more info and showtimes, please visit www.imagescinema.org.

 

~ Anna

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Inside Llewyn Davis

inside llewynMusic, like cinema, can be tricky because it is both art and a commercial product. Things can become stuck between the two areas, or lost in limbo. This seems to be where the title character of Inside Llewyn Davis resides, trying to support himself financially, while not wanting to compromise his art. There is a pattern in the film of a moving musical performance being followed by what feels like an inappropriate response.

Perhaps it’s fitting that the film garnered so few Oscar nominations. It’s a beautifully made film that takes place in an unglamorous time, about a largely interior journey. The Coens deserve an Oscar nomination for Best Direction, and the film deserves a Best Picture nomination, but it will have to settle for Best Cinematography and Best Sound Mixing.

Llewyn is an idealist, an artist in a world where most have alternate motives. After a moving private performance by Llewyn, a potential manager states, “I don’t see a lot of money in this.” During a performance by Jean and others at the famed Gaslight, the venue manager crudely states, “I want to fuck Jean.” Meanwhile the fun, kitchy, but emotionally empty song, Please Mr. Kennedy, is expected to be a big hit.

The film effectively charts Llewyn’s emotional journey by showing only external interactions. He says very little about he feels, so we know only how he interacts with other people and the Gorfein’s cat, and how it reflects his inner state.  The music also powerfully conveys a lot.

The film begins with the last scene of the film. It isn’t clear that this is so until we come to that scene again, this time extended. We know that in some ways Llewyn has come to terms with his singing partner’s death, and with his place in the world as well. This bookending also conveys the idea of patterns in our lives that bring us back to the same metaphoric spot again and again, not so much circles as spirals. We don’t end up exactly where we’ve been before, but close enough that we can gauge our inner growth by the similarity of external circumstances.

We can see how far Llewyn has come despite being in exactly the same place. Also, that repeated scene acts like the chorus to a song, the part we return to and yet understand better as the song progresses.

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Anna’s favorite movies of 2013

I haven’t yet seen Inside Llewyn Davis or Her, both of which are contenders for this list, so I will re-evaluate after I see them. 

1. Nebraska

2. Frances Ha

3. Short Term 12 

4. Stories We Tell

5. Spring Breakers

6. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

7. American Hustle

8. Enough Said

9. Hannah Arendt 

10. In A World

Honorable Mentions: Blue is the Warmest Color, 12 Years a Slave, All is Lost, Fruitvale Station, The Bling Ring, Gravity, The Sapphires

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Janet’s Favorite Films of 2013

Before Midnight
Frances Ha
Stories We Tell
From Up On Poppy Hill
In A World…
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints
The Grandmaster
Enough Said
Spring Breakers
Short Term 12
Cutie and the Boxer
Upstream Color

Haven’t yet seen: American Hustle, Nebraska, Her, or Inside Llewyn Davis.

What are your favorite films of 2013?

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Philomena: Full of Light

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Saint Philomena was an early Christian and a virgin. She was 13 when she was martyred. She is the patron saint of children, of the imprisoned, and consoler of afflicted mothers. This seems appropriate to the film Philomena, based on Martin Sixsmith’s book, The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, about a mother searching for her long lost son.

Catholic, unwed, and pregnant in 1950s Ireland, Philomena Lee was brought to Roscrea Convent, where she gave birth to Anthony. In order to leave, they had to pay a fee, or work in the laundry for three years, an indentured servitude. The mothers would see their children for one hour a day, and were forced to sign away their rights to the children. The children were adopted out (sold) to foreign families.

For fifty years, Philomena kept this a secret, but ultimately enlisted the help of Martin Sixsmith, a journalist who worked both for the BBC and under Tony Blair. She wanted to find her child, but also wanted people to know about her story, and about the way her story was covered up.

In the film, the character of Sixsmith repeatedly talks about “human interest stories” disparagingly, as if they are entirely different from “real journalism.” I think one of the points of the film is showing how much the personal and the political are intertwined, how stories of “real journalism” are also human stories. Philomena’s story touches on the Catholic Church’s suppression of unwed mothers in 1950s Ireland to closeted homosexuality within the Republican party of the 1980s and 90s, how people internalize these attitudes, and the suffering it causes.

In discussion with his editor, it is clear that the more dramatic the story is, the more dirt it uncovers about major institutions, the better sales the story will garner, which is in opposition to the personal aspects of the story, about things that are usually private. But publicly telling a story like this is itself a political act. Ultimately its about truth-telling. The powerful want things kept secret, and it is the journalist’s job to bring these things out into the light.

In one scene in the film, Philomena asks Martin if he must use her real name in the story. He insists, yes that’s how these things are done. It’s wonderfully synchronistic that her name is Philomena, not only because of the Saint Philomena’s areas of patronage, but also because Philomena (or Filumena) means “full of light.”

Read an article summarizing Philomena Lee’s story, by Martin Sixsmith: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2009/sep/19/catholic-church-sold-child

Philomena is showing at Images Cinema through Thursday, 1/9.

 

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