SPIRITED AWAY: THE FILMS OF STUDIO GHIBLI

(Christmas at TIFF Bell Lightbox)

Spirited Away: The Films of Studio Ghibli:

Just in time for the holidays, this dazzling showcase, devoted to the legendary animation studio returns to TIFF Bell Lightbox.  The series of 23 films runs from 24th of December to January 6th 2017.

My favourites are:

SPIRITED AWAY

MY NEIGHBOUR TOTORO

HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE

PONYO

KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE

GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES

Also screened is the 30-minute short preceding some screenings  called GHIBLIES Episode 2, which is pure fun.

The films screened are:

Dec 24

CASTLE IN THE SKY (Capsule reviewed below)   

SPIRITED AWAY

MY NEIGHBOUR TOTORO

KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE

Dec 25

HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE

Dec 26    

PRINCESS MONONOKE

Dec 27

PORCO ROSSO

THE CAT RETURNS

Dec 28

PONYO

Dec 29

THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA

ONLY YESTERDAY

WHISPER OF THE HEART

Dec 30

POM POKO
NAUSICAA  IN THE VALLEY OF THE WIND

Jan 1

THE SECRET WORLD OF ARRIETTI

GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES

Jan 3

OCEAN WAVES’

MY NEIGHBOURS, THE YAMADAS

Jan 4

TALES FROM EARTHSEA

Jan 5

THE WIND RISES

FROM UP POPPY HILL

Jan 6

THE CAT RETURNS

WHEN MARNIE WAS HERE

Capsule Reviews of Selected Films:

CASTLE IN THE SKY (Japan 1986) ****

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

            The CASTLE IN THE SKY is the mythical Kingdom that all the film’s characters are looking for, for different reasons.  Pazu, a farm boy is in search of it to clear his late father’s name, the air pirates led by Granny (Cloris Leachman) for riches while the villain to unveil its secret power and rule the world.  The common element in all this is a stone possessed by the Kingdom’s princess (Anna Paquin).  CASTLE IN THE SKY is more ambitious in both story and animation compared to the other Ghibli Studio films but the common elements of first and true love, fantasy and stunning graphics are still present.  Reminiscent of Hollywood epics like RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and STAR WARS, the film comes complete with a climax that includes a showdown between the hero and villain, a damsel in distress, a fight between good and evil with the future of the Planet at stake.

GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES (Japan 1988) ****

Directed by Isao Takahata

The film opens on September 21, 1945, shortly after the end of World War II at a local train station.  Here, a boy, is dying of starvation.  Later that night, a janitor digs through his possessions, and finds a candy tin, which he throws away into a nearby field. From the tin spring the spirits of Seita and his younger sister Setsuko as well as a cloud of fireflies.  Seita’s spirit narrates their story alongside an extended flashback to Japan in the final months of the war.  There is not much story but in the film but what it lacks in plot is more than made up in terms of raw emotion.  The film traces Seita and Setsuko as they try to survive after being orphaned and left with no money.  But they retain their dignity never succumbing to their uncaring relatives and love for each other.   My mother, a child during WWII used to tell me stories of her running to the air shelters amidst bombing (but by the Japanese) in Singapore, so watching this film has meant much more to me.

KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE (Japan 1989) *****

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

This charming tale based on a1985 novel by Eiko Kadano, an author of children’s literature tells the coming-of-age story of a teenage witch, Kiki.  At the age of 13, witches have to leave heir home and spend a year on their own.  So Kiki (dubbed voice of Kirsten Dunst in the English version) takes her broom and flies to a coastal town to find her true calling.  She starts a flying delivery service while finding first and true love a local boy. This is a splendid children’s tale full of wonderful characters that includes a talking black cat, Jiji (Phil Hartman) a kind baker who takes Kiki in and an old granny that bakes delicious pies.  A pop soundtrack helps in the proceedings that eventually aids Kiki finding herself. This is the first Ghibli film released under the partnership of Ghibli and Disney Studios.

MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO (Japan 1988) ****

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

            Totoro is a huge smiling gremlin that only children can see, and only if they are lucky enough.  The film is a family based drama that charms on fantasy creatures, childhood memories, perfect parents and beautiful countryside farms.  A brother and his younger sister are left to tend for themselves when their father moves them to a farm while waiting for their mother to return from hospital due to an unnamed illness.   They encounter mystic creatures that include the huge Totoro of the title, who eventually helps them visit mother in hospital by loaning them a cat-bus.  The film makes living on a farm paradise.

PONYO (Japan 2008) *****

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

A fish with a girl’s face, Ponyo escapes her father wizard in the sea and lands on land where she falls in love with a boy called Sosuke.  She tastes blood (licking the cut on Sosuke) and develops hands and feet to become a girl.  Unfortunately this causes an unbalance in nature resulting in tsunami like conditions in the fishing town.  This is an excuse for animation so stunning (and the most colourful I have ever seen) that the film won the Japan Academy Prize for animation of the year.  Miyazaki’s film is filled with emotions as the young Ponyo and Sosuke relate to the unstable marriage of Sosuke’s parents and the old folks home at the top of the hill.   Love conquers all in the end.  The English version is dubbed by the voices of Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Liam Neeson, Betty White and Cloris Leachman.

NAUSICAA OF THE VALLEY OF THE WIND (Japan 1984) ****

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

Based on the manga comic series that was also written by Miyazaki, this animation plays like a STARWARS episode in which kingdoms fight for survival and for unity and stabilization of their species.  Also there is a princess warrior, bad guys that look like Darth Vader and animals that could be taken right out of Episodes 1 and 2 of the STAR WARS series.  The story is set in apocalyptic Earth which has almost all of the human race destroyed due to toxic pollution.  The angry insects must be calmed or they will attack the humans.  The princess is a kind soul who is well respected by everyone and she has to prove her worth when attacked by an invading Tolmekians.  The film contains lots of galatical battles, made all the more impressive by Miyazaki’s imagination and animation.  More action and adult than the other films in the series but by means no less enjoyable.  Voices of Shia Laboeuf, Uma Thurman, Patrick Stewart and other Hollywood stars land their voice characterizations.

 

 

 

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