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Ghost Canyon

'The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness'
(Hayao Miyazaki, Toshio Suzuki, Isao Takahata, et al / DVD / PG / 2015 / Cinedigm)

Overview: Granted near-unfettered access to the notoriously insular Studio Ghibli, director Mami Sunada follows the three men who are the lifeblood of Ghibli the eminent director Hayao Miyazaki, the producer Toshio Suzuki, and the elusive and influential other director Isao Takahata over the course of a year as the studio rushes to complete two films, Miyazaki's The Wind Rises and Takahata's The Tale of The Princess Kaguya.

DVD Verdict: In truth, before I watched this documentary about Studio Ghibli and its creator, Hayao Miyazaki, I knew very little about the man but loved his films. Now, after having seen this movie, I kind of wish I hadn't. After all, in my mind, I assumed that Ghibli must have been some sort of magical place where fun and fantasy skipped hand in hand. However, it turned out to be a very different sort of film--a bit slow and amazingly downbeat!

The style of this documentary by Mami Sunada is rather free-form. It does not offer a chronological discussion of the history of Miyazaki or the studio. Instead, it just lets the staff of Ghibli (mostly but not exclusively Miyazaki) talk and there isn't much in the way of structure. At times, you hear folks talk about some of this history, but people wanting this sort of film should look elsewhere. So much of the film consists of behind the scenes discussions - some of which really surprised me. If Miyazaki didn't like someone or their work, he said so without being particularly diplomatic about this. And, to be fair, some of his employees talked about him in less than glowing terms and felt free to do so!

But what really got me was how the man seemed to have an extremely depressive personality. It's not going out on a limb to draw that conclusion, either, with his comments throughout the film such as "I don't ever feel happy in my daily life" and "filmmaking only brings suffering". Wow...kind of a downer, don't you think? He also very candidly said that he didn't think the studio would survive after his death or with his son in charge. Ouch!

So is this documentary any good? Well, it all depends. If you want honesty, and too often biopics are incredibly dishonest, this one is honest; showing Miyazaki warts and all. However, if you want to enjoy a documentary or feel uplifted, you'd best try something else. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Bonus Features of:

Digest (Short Film)
The Kingdom According to Ushiko
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