Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
In Japan, animation is not just for family films. There's a booming industry in all kinds of animated films, including adult drama, comedy and even eroticism, and the leading directors are as well known as Spielberg or Tarantino. The genre is often called Japanimation, but its fans scorn that term and prefer "anime," a Japanese word with English origins.
"The Wings of Honneamise," made in 1987 but only now opening in the United States, is one of the most ambitious of all anime productions, a visually sensational two-hour extravaganza about an unkempt and disorganized young pilot named Shirotsugh, or Shiro, who signs up for the Royal Space Force after failing to make the grade as a Navy pilot. He seems on track to become the first man in space, little suspecting the sinister reasons why anyone would risk such an important flight on an officer as shabby as he is.
The Royal Space Force? Where is it based? The movie takes place on a planet that is not exactly the earth; a closing shot from space reveals that the continents and seas have a different arrangement. This world is sort of Japanese and sort of American, and in it an uneasy peace has been reached.
The kingdom's space program has never been taken seriously, and consists of gung-ho pilots and misfit scientists who hang around inventing stuff like old-time barnstormers. (An early scene involves funeral services for a pilot whose urine bag leaked, allowing his space suit to electrocute him.) The Space Force is amazed when its first manned space shot is given priority.