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When The Wind Blows

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    Ian Jane
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  • When The Wind Blows



    Released by: BFI
    Released on: January 22nd, 2018.
    Director: Jimmy T. Murakami
    Cast: Sir John Mills, Dame Peggy Ashcroft
    Year: 1986
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    When Twilight Time debuted When The Wind Blows on Blu-ray back in 2014, Mark Tolch had this to say:

    Sometime back in the mid to late '80's, when watching television was still regarded as somewhat of a family event and you could plan out your evenings by paging through what we called a "TV Guide", my stepfather announced that we would be gathering in front of the TV that night to watch an animated film called "When The Wind Blows". This was a little bit odd, to say the least, as my old stepdad was known to have remarked that, "Cartoons cause your brain to shut itself down and operate at a lower capacity." or some other such nonsense. To this day, I don't know why he decided that we should watch the film, but to say that it left an impression would be an understatement.

    Based on Raymond Briggs' graphic novel of the same name, When The Wind Blows tells the story of James and Hilda, an elderly couple living in a nice little house in the British countryside outside of London. Though they are not stupid by any means, they definitely live what could be defined as a simple life in their golden years, with the transistor radio in the kitchen and the local newspaper being the main sources of excitement. Both forms of media have been focusing a whole lot on the "International Situation", however, and Jim's concern regarding "Preemptive Strikes" has convinced him to pick up some information pamphlets supplied by "The Powers That Be". After all, he says, it is the correct thing to do.

    Following the instructions in the pamphlet, Jim throws their uncomplicated lifestyle into a bit of a spin, removing the doors from the house to make a lean-to shelter (the "Inner Core"), buttressing it with Hilda's nice cushions, and painting the windows white to block out the radiation. Other preparatory tasks involve not being dressed in patterned clothes, and having paper sacks handy to wear. While Jim naively follows the instructions laid out by "The Powers That Be" to the letter, Hilda's main concern seems to be that he put the screws for the doors into a plastic bag so that they can be reattached after the bombs have been dropped. Neither of them seem too terribly worried about the impending attack, as they fondly remember the blackouts and the bomb shelters of World War II London, convinced that one war is the same as the next. And when the Russian "Preemptive Strike" finally does occur, they are completely unaware that they would have been better off not surviving.

    Needless to say, When The Wind Blows is not a pro-war film. Seeing it at 12 years old with the entire family was a jarring event, which led to a few nights of restless sleep. "Why didn't the white paint stop the radiation?" "What would you do if you actually really wanted to survive?" were the kinds of questions that James and Hilda might have asked if they'd seen the film, and my stepfather's straight-forward answer; "Nowhere. Everyone will die. The lucky ones will be incinerated immediately." was about as black and white as it gets, hammering home the horror of nuclear destruction. Viewing the film again a number of years later, the naivety of the protagonists is what makes it so effective; that even though we now know what the full impact of the consequences will be, unlike Jim and Hilda, the danger of such an event is still a very real threat. That innocence is also effective in making Jim and Hilda so very endearing as the survivors, as we helplessly watch them experience the events of the film with nothing but the best intentions.

    Directed by Jimmy Murakami, When The Wind Blows was fairly advanced for a "cartoon" at the time of release, mixing live action and sets with animated characters to give it a look that was definitely different and somewhat perplexing, in that the brain doesn't fully register what it's seeing during certain scenes, relating to the confusion experienced by the characters. The soundtrack is also cutting edge (again, for the time), mixing David Bowie, Squeeze, and Roger Waters and The Bleeding Heart Band, a rather unlikely collection of music for an animated film. And the closing credits track by Waters, "Folded Flags" is a kick in the stomach after the events of the movie, with morse code spelling out M-A-D (Mutually Assured Destruction) as it fades to black.

    I'm not going to lie, I cried in 1987, I cried in 2014, and I'll probably cry again the next time I see it. When The Wind Blows is a fascinating achievement in filmmaking, and one that remains timeless almost 30 years after its creation.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The AVC encoded 1080p 1.37.1 fullframe transfer on this 50GB Blu-ray disc looks excellent. The animation is as detailed as the source would likely allow for while color reproduction is excellent. The picture is quite film like, showing nothing of concern in the way of print damage but a nice, natural amount of film grain. There are no noticeable problems at all with any compression artifacts, edge enhancement or obvious noise reduction.

    The only audio option on the disc is an LPCM 2.0 Mono track in English with subtitles provided in English only. No problems here, the quality and clarity of the mix is fine, presenting properly balanced levels and clear dialogue.

    Extras are similar to the Twilight Time Release, starting with the big extra feature on this disc, at least the one that most seem to be talking about, that being "Jimmy Murakami: Non-Alien" a sixty-eight minute documentary that was thankfully made about the director back in 2010 (Murakami died in February of this year). Murakami, based in Ireland at the time of the documentary, talks intimately about his experiences as an American-born citizen of Japanese descent during World War II, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Regarded as a "Non-Alien", which was basically the government's way of stripping his rights as a citizen away, Jimmy and his family were placed in a concentration camp in California, which obviously had a hand in shaping his country and the world. This beautifully shot film also looks at Jimmy's life in films, with Jimmy himself supplying most of the information. It is worth noting that this supplement is also in 1080p, with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track.

    The Wind And The Bomb is a twenty-four minute "vintage" featurette from 1986, documenting the film's genesis as Raymond Brigg's graphic novel. Briggs makes an appearance here as his background as a children's writer is discussed, and producer John Coates and Jimmy Murakami are also present, talking about how the film took shape and the techniques used to create it.

    The fourteen-minute Interview With Raymond Briggs retreads some of the information found in the previous featurette, but also puts focus on character development in his stories and how his parents influenced his work.

    There are also two alternate audio tracks for the film. First up is an Isolated Music and Effects Track, which is quite nice if that's your thing. The second track is a commentary featuring First Assistant Editor Joe Fordham, and Twilight Time's (and Film Historian) Nick Redman. Fordham covers quite a bit of information regarding the making and editing of the film, as well as working with Murakami and the musical contributions to the film. Fortunately, Fordham also has a fair bit of knowledge on the set building and technical aspects of the animation, and the two keep up a lively conversation for the majority of the running time.

    Exclusive to this BFI reissue is a fifty-minute public information film entitled Protect and Survive that was made in 1975. Appropriately enough, this film was intended to instruct British citizens how to best prepare for and survive a nuclear attack, which seems frighteningly relevant at the time of this writing. If this is dated, so be it, it still offers an interesting snapshot of Cold War era preparation, some of which might still apply today.

    Final retail product is said to include an illustrated booklet with new introduction by Raymond Briggs, an essay by executive producer Iain Harvey, writing by Jez Stewart, Claire Kitson and Bella Todd, and full film credits as well as a CD version of the soundtrack (only a Blu-ray test disc was sent for review so we can't comment on these extras).

    The Final Word:

    When The Wind Blows is a sad and wonderful film that still remains powerful and relevant all of these years later. I shudder to use the word "heartwarming,” but it's the very description of this work, and a beautiful example of how stunning an animated film can be. Definitely recommended.

    Click on the image below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!




















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