Hayao Miyazaki awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement

Mark Nornes amnornes
Wed Feb 9 23:45:53 EST 2005

Miyazaki will pick up the lifetime achievement award from Venice at 
this year's festival. This puts him a pretty stellar crowd that 
includes Bunuel, Welles, Carne, Chaplin, Huston, Bresson, Coppola, 
Kubrick, Donen (???).

The only other Asians to win this (since its inception in 1969) have 
been Kurosawa and Ray (both in 1982).

Here is what the festival website reports:

Today, the Board of directors of the Biennale di Venezia, chaired by 
Davide Croff, approved the proposal of the Director, Marco M?ller, to 
award film director Hayao Miyazaki the Golden Lion for Lifetime 
Achievement at the 62nd Venice International Film Festival, which runs 
31st August to 10th September, 2005. This is the first Golden Lion for 
lifetime achievement awarded to a director of animated films.

Marco M?ller declared that "Hayao Miyazaki is the giant who pulled down 
the walls which had been erected to contain Japanese animated films and 
reduce them to Western categories. Too hastily, he was dubbed a 
'Japanese Disney', reducing a creative energy and a vision that is 
completely out of the ordinary to parameters we are more accustomed to. 
Miyazaki's energy combines romanticism and humanism with an epic take 
on story-telling, a touch of visionary fantasy that leaves one 
open-mouthed. The sense of wonder his films convey awakens the child 
who sleeps within each of us. We should not, however, forget the 
industrial surprises of Miyazaki: with the right 'accomplices', he has 
succeeded in exploding the conventional categories of animation, thanks 
to the systematic work of a factory which has also trained a 
considerable deal of fresh talent. In Hayao Miyazaki is embodied the 
filmic pop art of the new millennium, one of the components that are 
increasingly present in the research work of the Venice Film Festival."

The award will be given to the great director on Friday 9th September 
during the course of a "Miyazaki Day" which will see the screening of 
his films that are as yet unknown in Italy and Europe.

Hayao Miyazaki is one of the greatest directors in Japanese cinema, and 
a master of animated cinema. Born in Tokyo in 1941, he has created 
numerous feature-length anime (as animated films are called in Japan), 
which attract a devoted following around the world. He is also the 
producer, screenplay writer and one of the most noted designers of 
manga cartoons. His films have almost without fail proved to be hits 
with both critics and the box office in Japan. His international fame, 
which burst to the fore with the success of Tonari no Totoro (My 
Neighbor Totoro, 1988), consolidated itself with Mononoke-hime 
(Princess Mononoke, 1997), distributed throughout the world, and above 
all with Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (Spirited Away), considered a 
classic of the fantasy genre, which won the Golden Bear at the Berlin 
Festival in 2002 and the Oscar as best animated film in 2003, the first 
Oscar to be awarded to an anime production. In September 2004, the 61st 
Venice Film Festival presented the world premiere of his latest 
masterpiece to date, Hauru no ugoku shiro (Howl's Moving Castle), into 
which Miyazaki has poured all his revulsion for war, which he 
experienced as a child. This is a theme that has characterised his work 
since Tenk? no shiro Rapyuta (Laputa: Castle in the Sky, 1986). Awarded 
a special Osella to Studio Ghibli (for its overall work) by the jury 
chaired by John Boorman, Hauru no ugoku shiro (Howl's Moving Castle) 
will be distributed in Italy as of September 2005. At present, Miyazaki 
is planning three new films, and there is currently a major exhibition 
entitled "Miyazaki & Moebius" at the Mus?e de la Monnaie in Paris, 
illustrating the reciprocal influences of these two masters of drawing; 
this runs until March.

Miyazaki first began evincing an interest in animated films as a 
teenager. He graduated in economics but at the same time developed a 
passion for European literature for children: he read not just 
Saint-Exup?ry, but also Rosemary Sutcliff, Philippa Pearce and Eleonor 
Farjeon. After training as a draftsman, in 1963 he joined Toei 
Animation, the largest animation company in Asia, distinguishing 
himself for his ability and the intensity of his line. In 1971, after 
leaving Toei for A-Pro, he worked with Isao Takahata (his former boss 
at Toei) on several animated TV series, including the well-known "Lupin 
III", "Heidi" and "Future Boy Conan". At the start of the 1980s, 
Miyazaki founded a new company with Isao Takahata, Studio Ghibli, with 
which he produced his subsequent works.

An enthusiastic traveller (he travelled to Switzerland to find the real 
landscape behind "Heidi"), Miyazaki conveys in his films suggestions of 
a more or less fantastic Europe: France in the first feature-length 
film he directed, Rupan sansei: Kariosutoro no shiro (Lupin III: Castle 
of Cagliostro, 1979); Wales in Tenk? no shiro Rapyuta (Laputa: Castle 
in the Sky, 1986); Europe in general in Majo no takky?bin (Kiki's 
Delivery Service, 1989), the story of an adolescent witch; an imaginary 
view of Italy in the 1920s in Kurenai no buta (Porco Rosso, 1992), in 
which the hero is an anti-fascist aviator whose head has been 
transformed into that of a pig.

In another of his masterpieces, the ecological fairy tale Kaze no tani 
no Naushika (Nausica? of the Valley of the Winds, 1984), based upon the 
manga cartoons he himself drew between 1982 and 1994, Miyazaki tackles 
some characteristic themes that recur in his later works: an interest 
in environmental subjects, the attraction of aircraft, the absence of 
the traditional figure of evil. Among the salient features of 
Miyazaki's films which distinguishes them from classic Western 
animation is the absence of characters that are overly good or evil. 
The protagonists are human beings who may be better or worse than 
others but who never present merely a single psychological or 
behavioural trait. Another characteristic of the director is the design 
of the characters that are always rather similar from film to film. 
This produces the effect that they appear to be almost real actors and 
actresses, returning in different films by the director.

With Naushika and Tonari no Totoro (My Neighbor Totoro, 1988), Miyazaki 
launched Studio Ghibli upon a series of great commercial successes, 
culminating in Mononoke-hime (Princess Mononoke, 1997) - with which he 
won the Japanese Oscar - and in which the director re-elaborates the 
ecological and political themes of Naushika. In the film, the epic tale 
is told of the struggle between the animal gods governing the forest 
and the humans who wish to exploit it for their industries. In Japan, 
it proved the greatest commercial success ever (until the subsequent 
exploit of Titanic). The meeting with the daughter of a friend became 
the source of inspiration for Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (Spirited 
Away, 2001), the story of a little girl who is catapulted rather like 
Alice from an abandoned theme park into a fantasy world governed by 
witches and monsters. This film, which came out in Japan in July 2001, 
exceeded the number of spectators and receipts of Titanic, totalling 
yen 30.4 billion and over 23 million viewings, later winning the Golden 
Bear at the 2002 edition of the Berlin Film Festival and the Oscar as 
best animation film in 2003. In July 2004, Miyazaki finished directing 
Hauru no ugoku shiro (Howl's Moving Castle), an anime adaptation of the 
children's book by the English writer, Diana Wynne Jones, which obliged 
him to cancel a planned retreat as a result of the sudden death of the 
project's original director, Mamoru Hosoda. Given its world premiere at 
the 61st Venice Film Festival, the film was distributed in Japan on 
20th November of the same year, gathering yen 1.4 billion in the first 
two days and continuing Miyazaki's tendency to establish new box-office 
records with each film. This result was echoed in France, the only 
European country in which it has so far been distributed.

The Studio Ghibli factory is today not only a production house, but 
also a museum which opened at the end of 2001 in the park of Mitaka 
(Tokyo), containing the characters created by the director. This was 
planned by Miyazaki with the aim of encouraging children to undertake 
their own voyage of personal discovery and explore their own fantasies 
by explaining how an animated film is made.

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