Very few animators have had an impact on the world of cinema that is comparable to what Hayao Miyazaki has achieved. It is thanks to Miyazaki’s efforts that anime has a global audience, with people from all around the world regularly citing Studio Ghibli masterpieces such as My Neighbour Totoro and Spirited Away as their personal favourites.
Born in Tokyo in 1941, many factors contributed to the formation of his artistic vision, such as the Second World War, which resulted in his pacifist outlook of life. Having nurtured a healthy interest in the art of animation from his school days, Miyazaki wanted to be a manga artist when he was starting out, but he eventually realised that cinema was the perfect medium.
Miyazaki’s body of work is so widely celebrated because of his unique approach to animation, choosing to focus on the spiritual conditions of his characters instead of the mechanical aspects. That is exactly why Miyazaki has been critical of many CGI artists, claiming that the latter pay more attention to the physical dynamism when they should be amplifying the spiritual urgency of movement in animation.
Although the ageing auteur had announced his retirement, he has decided to make one final film before bidding farewell to his illustrious career. Titled How Do You Live?, the film is an adaptation of a Yoshino Genzaburo novel which revolves around a 15-year-old boy who has to deal with the recent death of his father while growing up in Tokyo.
Miyazaki explained that he was making this final project for his grandson as a way of saying: “Grandpa is moving onto the next world soon but he is leaving this film behind because he loves you.” How Do You Live? promises to be a very emotional film for not just his grandson but for all those who have grown up watching the enigmatic cinema of Hayao Miyazaki.
For now, though, check out a list of Hayao Miyazaki’s favourite cinematic masterpieces below.
Hayao Miyazaki’s 10 favourite films:
- Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)
- My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)
- The Spirit of the Beehive (Víctor Erice, 1973)
- Priest of Darkness (Sadao Yamanaka, 1936)
- The Snow Queen (Lev Atamanov, 1957)
- Ashes and Diamonds (Andrzej Wajda, 1958)
- Ballad of a Soldier (Grigory Chukhray, 1959)
- Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954)
- The Curious Adventures of Mr. Wonderbird (Paul Grimault, 1952)
- Chikemuri Takanobaba (Masahiro Makino and Hiroshi Inagaki, 1937)
Miyazaki’s list is certainly an eclectic one, containing American blockbusters such as Steven Spielberg’s Jaws as well as The Snow Queen – an animated gem from the Soviet Union. He also cited Akira Kurosawa as an inspiration which is interesting because Kurosawa also considered My Neighbour Totoro to be one of his favourite films of all time.
When it comes to animation, Miyazaki was moved by the first anime feature ever made – The White Snake Enchantress (1958) – which proved to be a very important work for Japanese animation. Thankfully, a restored version of this extremely important animated classic was recently screened at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.