Oshii’s 1995 film, Ghost In The Shell, continues to have an impact on genre movies.
You've almost certainly visited the world of Mamoru Oshii, even if you weren't conscious of it at the time. The DNA of his movies is scattered throughout cinema. The cyberpunk world of The Matrix, for instance, where characters jack into a virtual landscape and dive off buildings in fetishistic slow motion grew right out of his 1995 anime Ghost In The Shell.
Oshii comes to the Lightbox Saturday (July 12) for one of TIFF's in-depth In Conversation With... sessions at 6:30 pm - a rare public appearance, we understand. And he'll be sticking around to introduce screenings of Ghost In The Shell at 9 pm and his zippy aerial actioner The Sky Crawlers on Sunday (July 13) at 6:15 pm.
TIFF shows three other Oshii features this month - his giant robot Patlabor movies (the first on July 18, and Patlabor 2 July 19) and the moody Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence (July 25) - but, really, the only ones you absolutely need to see are the two showing this weekend.
Ghost In The Shell - the original 1995 feature, not the sequel and not the digitally updated edition known as Ghost In The Shell 2.0 - is a perfect encapsulation of the interests that have defined Oshii's career. He's fascinated by the collaboration of human and machine - expressed in the slow technological creep of machinery into the bodies of his characters.
Oshii's hero, cyborg Tokyo policewoman Major Kusanagi, is set apart from her fellow detectives not only by her enhanced abilities and online connectivity but by her fondness for leaping into battle nude. Their pursuit of a mysterious hacker leads the major and her partner, Bato, to discover a nascent technical menace that will surprise no one who's seen a science fiction movie in the last two decades. But that's largely because Ghost In The Shell had such a powerful impact on the genre that it's been reverberating through it ever since; The Matrix was just its most blatant sampling.
But take a look at The Sky Crawlers - Oshii's tale of young pilots who spend their days in futile dogfights and their nights in a hedonistic blur - and you can see how something that seems derivative is really a progression. The relationship between the pilots and their planes echoes the symbiosis of the police and giant mechas of the Patlabor movies, but now it's wrapped in a much more complex and existentially charged story. I'm sure someone will ask him about that on Saturday night.