Search the Cinema Head Cheese Archives!

September 3, 2015

Movie Review: When the Wind Blows (1986)

Directed by Jimmy Murakami

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

As author David J Moore states in his authoritative book on Apocalyptic cinema, “World Gone Wild,” “This is no bag of candy for the kiddies, friends.” Indeed.

Jim (voiced by Sir John Mills) and Hilda Bloggs (voiced by Dame Peggy Ashcroft) is an elderly couple who live on their storybook farm outside of London. The talk, bicker and remember the good old days when they learn about the possibility of nuclear war in three days’ time. Jim busies himself by following official government pamphlets by painting all the windows white and constructing a shelter of three doors lying on their side in a hallway. The unspeakable happens, their home and farm is reduced to rubble. The Bloggs continue on talking, bickering, and remembering the good old days … until they eventually crawl into paper bags to await their deaths from radiation poisoning.

Cartoonist Raymond Briggs decided to let the world have it with both barrels after the winsome yuletide fantasy The Snowman in 1982. Taking his all-round circular figures and overly pleasing pastel colors, Briggs took on the Ronald Reagan Cold War era for an altogether bleak and despairing vision. When the Wind Blows runs neck and neck with Grave of the Fireflies as the most despairing animated feature film EVER.

Basing the characters of the Bloggs on his own parents, Briggs makes a point in the included 17-minute feature on this disc, “An Interview with Raymond Briggs” that both his mother and father had muddled through World War II. Both were of the mind that they could make do through World War III as well. This was an overriding concern during the 1980s, when many such people – probably not as oblivious as the Bloggs, had survived through the war years, and were in positions of political power who actually thought that all-out nuclear war would be no big deal.

Another point made by a reviewer, forget his name at the time of this film’s release was “that nuclear war makes for a lousy plot.” Serious films intended to warn audiences away from a nuclear holocaust such as Threads (1984) and The Day After (1983) generally failed to inspire people to take part in peace marches. Rather, these projects hammered home the unavoidable fact that death comes to all living things. (President Ronald Reagan later admitted in his memoirs that The Day After depressed him, causing him to tone down his “Evil Empire” rhetoric against the Russians.) The Bloggs have lived their lives and had their hopes and expectations about their government dashed after running water and electricity is not restored immediately after The Big One. Their fate will undoubtedly get most people’s waterworks under the eyes going ….

This release of When the Wind Blows is another across the board winner for Twilight Time, although it must be noted that for some reason their English subtitles for the hard-of hearing wasn’t featured on this limited to 3,000 copies Blu-Ray. It certainly could have come in handy in deciphering the characters’ clipped, British accents.      

This Twilight Time release rivals Criterion in terms of extras. There is the substantial one-hour and 17 minute “Jimmy Murakami: Non-Alien,” in which the director relates his experiences as a youthful Japanese internment camp member in the United States during World War II. The subject matter in When the Wind Blows, with the atomic bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, would appear to have a tenacious connect to Murakami.

Also included is “The Wind and the Bomb - The Making of When the Wind Blows,” which details the lengthy and painstaking process in making an animated feature strictly by hand. If this film were done today, the Bloggs would doubtlessly be computer animated in the manner of a Pixar feature. When the Wind Blows features an array of diverse animation techniques such as the odd piece of stop motion here and there. The animators are asked what they would do if the bombs were suddenly sent on their way: “I dunno. Pray, maybe?” one artist says.

There is also an audio commentary with First Assistant Director Joe Fordham, hosted by Twilight Time's Nick Redman, as well as an isolated music and effects track. Julie Kirgo once again provides peerless commentary in the included booklet, where she freely admits that she made When the Wind Blows off limits to her children until they were much older.

When the Wind Blows is harrowing viewing. Warm up some tea, have a good cry, prepare to roll up and die as these adorable cartoon characters rush to their graves through no fault of their own. And down will come baby, cradle and all. 

No comments:

Post a Comment