Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind ★★★★

Distills Cold War anxieties into a pacifist, metaphor-rich epic. Draws joy from the trajectory of a glider in flight; the ripple of a wave through water; the texture of a giant insect's carapace—then counterbalances that joy with fear, moral myopia, and mass death. Its heroine's compassion pervades the film, rendering even the slightest act of violence tragic. (This is how you tell an anti-war story.) Her actions consistently, thrillingly valorize human and nonhuman life. Even the oozing nuclear colossus gets a shred of dignity as its body falls to pieces! Utopian idealism, per Miyazaki, is worth clinging to even in a world dominated by realpolitik. Nausicaä is resplendent sci-fi, though it hardly feels like fiction.

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