Castle in the Sky

Special showing at the IFC Center. Also on DVD.

Castle in the Sky is one of animation master Hayao Miyazaki’s early films, but in it, you can see glimmers of his later, more polished works. There is the old woman who is more than what she first seems to be and the young woman whose past holds a mystery, even from herself (Spirited Away). There are the environmental themes, explored with gravity and reverence and just a trace of horror (Princess Mononoke). There are the outrageous, elaborate, ravishingly detailed flying machines (Howl’s Moving Castle and, really, just about every other Miyazaki movie—he’s obsessed).

Without question, those later movies are far more ambitious and innovative than the comparatively modest Castle in the Sky, but frankly, Castle is pretty damn ambitious and innovative in its own right. And like all Miyazaki’s films, no matter how sophisticated, it is childlike in the best sense: possessed of a luminous, ageless sense of wonder that makes the fantasy story come alive.