Friday, September 15, 2017

Winds of Change (1979)

          Technically, the following remarks pertain not just to the 1979 release Winds of Change, but also to the 1978 release Metamorphoses, as they are two different versions of the same film. An American/Japanese coproduction, this obscure animated picture was first issued, under the title Metamorphoses, as a rock & roll head trip featuring tunes by Joan Baez and Mick Jagger, plus limited narration by familiar Hollywood voice actor Paul Frees. Accompanying the music are dramatizations of myths extrapolated from the writings of Ovid. By all reports, the original version had long nonverbal passages with magical creatures doing sparkly things. Think Fantasia (1940) for the stoner crowd. Metamorphoses tanked, so the picture was recut and the soundtrack was replaced. Out went Frees and the rockers, in came narration by Peter Ustinov and disco tunes, plus the new moniker Winds of Change.
          In Winds of Change, every little detail is explained to death, and Ustinov provides silly character voices for moments with implied synchronized dialogue. To get a sense of the weird tone this creates, consider the moment when a young adventurer stumbles upon the goddess Diana, then ogles her shapely naked backside while she bathes in a waterfall with help from flittering faeries. Upon discovering her unwanted visitor, Diana turns toward the camera and scowls while Ustinov says, “Hell hath no fury like a goddess being peeked at!” And that’s one of the more coherent moments. Later in the same scene, Ustinov voices Diana while she issues the following command: “Restless vegetation, turn into dragons!” All to the accompaniment of sexy guitars, thumping drumbeats, and relentless hi-hat snaps.
          If you buy into the vibe during early scenes, Winds of Change is pleasant enough to watch. Director Takashi, who also contributed to the script, gives the animation a relatively lush look, so while the images aren’t nearly as resplendent as those in classic Disney features, they’re certainly richer than, say, the average Hanna-Barbera product of the same period. The score has dancefloor snap, and some of the songs get cosmic (sample title: “Wandering Starchild”). As for the underlying material, stories about Medusa and Perseus and the like have endured with good reason, even if this treatment falls somewhere between infantilized and respectful. It’s also worth noting that the narration was written by radio legend Norman Corwin, so the language is not without virtue. Does it all add up to anything special? Not really. Nonetheless, Winds of Change is harmless and, given its foundation in the classics, mildly edifying.

Winds of Change: FUNKY

1 comment:

top_cat_james said...

The 1969 re-release of Fantasia WAS for the stoner crowd, and it was advertised and promoted as such.