The New Yorker:
A visit with the elusive genius Hayao Miyazaki.
By Margaret Talbot
The building that houses the Ghibli Museum would be unusual anywhere, but in greater Tokyo, where architectural exuberance usually takes an angular, modernist form—black glass cubes, busy geometries of neon—it is particularly so. From the outside, the museum resembles an oversized adobe house, with slightly melted edges; its exterior walls are painted in saltwater-taffy shades of pink, green, and yellow. Inside, the museum looks like a child’s fantasy of Old Europe submitted to a rigorous Arts and Crafts sensibility. The floors are dark polished wood; stained-glass windows cast candy-colored light on whitewashed walls; a spiral stairway climbs—inside what looks like a giant Victorian birdcage—to a rooftop garden of wild grasses, over which a hammered-metal robot soldier stands guard. In the central hall, beneath a high ceiling, a web of balconies and bridges suggests a dream vision of a nineteenth-century factory. Wrought-iron railings contain balls of colored glass, and leaded-glass lanterns are attached to the walls by wrought-iron vines. In the entryway, a fresco on the ceiling depicts a sky of Fra Angelico blue and a smiling sun wreathed in fruits and vegetables.
Situated in a park on the outskirts of Tokyo, the Ghibli Museum is dedicated to the work of Hayao Miyazaki, the most beloved director in Japan today, and—especially since his film “Spirited Away” won the Oscar for best animated film, in 2002—perhaps the most admired animation director in the world. Miyazaki’s zeal for craft and beauty has set a new standard for animated films. With few exceptions, we seldom know the names of directors of children’s films, but if you have seen a Miyazaki film you know his name. He not only draws characters and storyboards for the films he directs; he also writes the rich, strange screenplays, which blend Japanese mythology with modern psychological realism. He is, in short, an auteur of children’s entertainment, perhaps the world’s first.
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