Set like a metronome, Mamoru Hosoda presented his tri-annual film at the Annecy Animation Festival. This time, he shares his father’s gaze to tell the story of a child who must accept the arrival of a second baby in the home. EDITOR’S NOTE: On the occasion of the theatrical release of Miraï, ma petite soeur, we republish this article originally broadcast on June 14, 2018
Mamoru Hosoda is someone who has already proved the extent of his talent, but history may remember a discreet trademark, present in the vast majority of his films: it is the Japanese animation director who makes his characters cry the best. Not the cute, cute tears, but the ugly, noisy, bloated tears that don’t look like anything. Which character is going to “shoot” them? It’s almost become an issue in his filmography.
But in Mirai, no big cathartic crying. “In Mirai, the characters are more angry”, explained Mamoru Hosoda. “In Japan, we’re asked to make films that make the audience cry. I’m against this idea, maybe that’s why my characters are so expressive. I didn’t know my characters were crying well! ” he adds, amused.
We had the chance to meet the Stakhanovist filmmaker in the middle of the Annecy Film Festival. Releasing a film every three years in July, it is the turn of Mirai no Mirai in 2018. Mirai means “future”, but also used as a first name it becomes “the Mirai of the future ” in a play on words that already makes French producers tremble, who have chosen a Mirai, my little sister. Scheduled for release at the very end of the year, the director is getting ready to face the promotion of the film that will be released at home.
Aficionados of the 50-year-old director know about his thematic obsessions: the animated film about the family unit, with a touch of science fiction to a greater or lesser extent. Crossing time in the eponymous film, budding love, big family as a whole (and science fiction) in Summer Wars. Paternity (and polymorphic children) in the superb Les Enfants-Loups, paternity (and polymorphic dads) for Le Garçon et la bête, his penultimate film released in early 2016 in France. Mirai continues this exploration of the family bond.
But, remember, there are whimsical and angry people there, respectively the boy Kun – 4 years old and much cuter than a random 4-year-old – and his parents, who have to endure his whims. Indeed, a little sister comes to disturb the daily comfort of the firstborn, now in attention deficit. An emotional earthquake in this superb architect’s house, all vertical, in the heart of Yokohama. The little Kun stumbles, cries out, is frustrated, and will end up going too far. Suddenly, he comes face to face with a schoolgirl who is ten years older than him. It is the Mirai of Mirai, the Mirai of the future who comes to preach to him to accept his presence. From whim to whim, Kun will find himself tossed between dreamlike episodes, meeting other members of his family, past and future.
At first glance, Mirai seems to target two distinct audiences: children and parents. The former can directly identify themselves (and realize that they will never be at their advantage when they throw a tantrum) and the latter will have an additional perspective on the dynamics of early siblings. The interested party wouldn’t segment things like this: “It’s also a sibling film, and I’m an only child myself. That works too! “And… yes, indeed. If you’ve had four years, you’ll be affected too. Otherwise, you’re a little genius, congratulations.
It must be said that Kun is an endearing protagonist. Adorable even in his bad times, he is the most Japanese of Japanese toddlers: he is already obsessed with trains. And the whole film lives up to it – the perspectives are changed, the environments (fictional or real, nothing more will be said) take on a grandiose and exaggerated dimension. Hosoda, who made his most personal film, was able to empathize and shrink his own gaze. No doubt because it is the most autobiographical film of Hosoda, a father who saw the same balance of power in his offspring.
This understanding gives the film an effective comic dimension – and was generously received by a large, hilarious Bonlieu theatre in Annecy. Kun is a kid who does kid stuff and has kid stuff. The interactions between the three characters are delightful, authentic, and make us regret that the Mirai-du-futur is not present enough in the plot. The parents are also guilty realists – when Mirai’s mother tells her husband that ” he only knows how to play good daddy in front of the other moms “, the spade is original for the author. An opportunity to set some thoughts on what it means to be a good parent.
With Mirai, we detect a strange phenomenon – the film’s worries are transparent, they are easy to guess before you even see it and small fears, justified or not, will come true. One can imagine a structure that’s a little too mechanical: Kun has a seizure, the latter comes out at a dreamlike moment there to respond to it, he repikes a seizure, back to dreamlike, and yadda yadda. The movie’s a little binary. Also, should we fear a slightly more “minor” film? Mirai is, in a way. The Crossing of Time almost looks like a (so beautiful) postcard when the Summer Wars trilogy/The Wolf Children/The Boy and the Beast looks like a fresco that we enjoy again and again. Yes, Mirai is not an epic conveying the same expectations and greatness of spirit, but it is also one of its weapons. He knows how to surprise. Weaving his metaphors, Hosoda takes us on a journey between ages, places, levels of reality. Until he finds, even with such a postulate, his empty signature matrices?
With Kun and his family, we take a tour of a sibling, a lineage, a house, a lot of horizontal objects. And Hosoda still finds room to take his spectators – and his protagonist – for a stroll in fantastic, poetic settings, in short, to sublimate a child’s imagination. It’s also the occasion for Hosoda to make some technical demos: hello camera movements at Shinkansen speed, graphic style breaks (with comic value… and sometimes laboratory value) and some joyfulness that feeds a film that, without them, would have been far too wise. Well, the missed 3D crowds are still there, it’s also become a signature.
But it would be much more difficult to make a fascinating film without a touch of fantasy. And even though it does so at different scales, some of Hosoda’s patterns are repeating themselves. Does he have science fiction pegged to his body? Defendant’s response: “I n’t make that much distinction between genders. If I insert something unreal in my films, it is because these things also exist in our lives, as a metaphor for something. The Wolfman of the Wolf Children (…) is a social metaphor. Same for Mirai’s garden. Fantasy is a vector with metaphors. »
It is probably this desire to deconstruct borders that gives Hosoda the ability to evoke many things with the air of cultivating the same obsessions. In any case, Mirai keeps this intestinal theme, and this is undeniable. A little unfortunate timing effect, though: AFamily Case by Hirozaku Kore-Eda has just won the Palme d’Or in Cannes. Choosing one’s family, the peep-show family, the kleptomaniac family, is too subversive a message for a very square Japan on these things. A magnifying glass effect that, in comparison, could make Mirai a little more prosaic. But a look at his latest films reveals the wrong trial.
” Maybe it was Kore-Eda who was inspired by Boy and the Beast ! ,” he jokes. ” I had no intention of showing a family from a traditional perspective. The world is constantly changing, I wanted to show how a family with children can live in this society. Blood doesn’t matter to me. “And it’s true, even the dog Yuuko is literally considered a member of the family.
All right! Forgive me, for I have sinned. It was irresistible for me to ask the filmmaker what he thought of the French media’s obsession with “Les Nouveaux Miyazaki”. (Don’t forget to enter these three words on Google News at the end of the year). Mamoru Hosoda doesn’t take offense at the pre-sterilization and says:
” I came to Annecy for the first time for my film La Traversée du Temps. Already, at the time, French journalists all asked me if I was “post-Miyazaki”. Whenever I am asked, I don’t find it very pleasant… (…) I am trying to make my own films and I belong to another generation. »
Smurf him. Hosoda even regrets Takahata’s death, in the sense that he was also counting on the fact that the author of the Tale of Princess Kaguya was going to see his latest film. ” When I heard the news, I figured someone had to take over. We must continue his work and take over his work. Does that mean I’m post-Takahata? »
Mamoru Hosoda. Credit: B. Benedict.
Damn, plus he’s a good sport. He’s got all the assets. See you in three years (to talk about his parents? Thematically, it’ll get stuck one day!) with great pleasure, Mr. Hosoda. We’re already waiting for the next step, even a few months in advance. For Mirai is a film that exceeds the expectations it sets with humor and brilliance. He could align the planets for a second time in a row by winning the Annecy 2018 crystal, one year after Lou and Sirens Island. And to the applause of the audience, after the screening of Mirai, even if he has a little competition (Parvana, Funan, Civil War theme in Annecy) he won five festivals in one go.