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A few years after directing THE CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO (1979) — a supremely madcap adventure yarn that ranks among the quintessential entries in the multimedia empire devoted to “the world’s greatest thief,” Lupin IIIHayao Miyazaki began producing a manga series that surprised its creator by going on much longer than expected, resisting closure until 1994. That manga was Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. The film of the same name — showing today at the Brattle, not once, not twice, but three times (why not catch ’em all?) — was obviously in no position to encompass the entirety of Nausicaä’s tale, since it was produced ten years prior to said tale’s conclusion. How lovely it would have been had Miyazaki returned to mine his marvelous manga for another feature film! Or two of them! But never mind, no matter, it’s lovely enough that he made this one, which both laid the foundation for what would become Studio Ghibli and kicked off the extraordinary series of uniquely magical, poignant, often pointedly allegorical films for which Miyazaki is revered by so many today.

On a future Earth more or less re-medievalized in the wake of a now-distant apocalypse, a handful of tribes vie for supremacy, with the exception of those fortunate souls who dwell in the agrarian utopia of the Valley of the Wind. But they all live in fear of the “Toxic Jungle,” home to mutant plants, insects and animals who, having spawned from the cesspools of human civilization, now serve as its remnants’ scapegoats and boogeymen. The most militaristic tribe, the Torumekians, have devised a way to terrorize the jungle’s giant insects, known as Ohmu, into attacking their chief rivals, the Pejitei, using a rediscovered megaweapon from the peak-times of man’s hubris. For the sake of simplification, let’s say that the only thing standing in their way is Princess Nausicaä, young heroine of the people of the Valley, a gifted pilot, peerless (if reluctant) swordsperson, and promising botanist whose bottomless patience and pan-species empathy are the best available foils to the selfish, fear-driven folly that surrounds her.

So, that’s some kind of synopsis for you. But it only hints — at least, I hope it hints — at the wonder, strangeness, beauty and charm of the world Miyazaki has created here. Joe Hisaishi, a frequent collaborator, turned in one of his most enduringly enchanting soundtracks (although Haruomi Hosono is credited with the stirring main theme), a series of miniatures for organ and electronics in a gorgeous, Terry Riley-esque mode that ideally suits both the richly psychedelic weirdness of the Toxic Jungle and the soaring, cloud-scaling glider flights in which Nausicaä exults. Exercise your privilege today and join her. The wind belongs to the people, after all.

7/30 // 2:00pm // 4:30pm // 7pm
117 minutes
Japanese with English subtitles

Brattle Theatre
40 Brattle St.
Cambridge, MA

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