Movies


It’s out for viewing at Veoh, and subbed. Here’s the link to the video.

I haven’t watched it yet; got a lagging Internet connection at the moment and it’ll take some time. Once I have, rest assured I’ll go analytic and spoilerific. 🙂

Meanwhile – enjoy watching this!!! If you’ve been waiting as eagerly as I have to see this, and the third and last instalment in the Shinkai’s latest work, definitely go to Veoh.com and check them out.

Thank to Seow-chan for letting me know!

*flips back to Veoh tab*

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Thoughts on the DVD of Makoto Shinkai’s first real production. (****)
Hoshi no Koe

“Luke Skywal – ah! Ie, Noboru-kun wa daisuki…” …heh, come on, you thought the same thing…

Makoto Shinkai‘s status as a heavyweight in the Japanese animation industry is only disputable in that ‘heavyweight‘ is a severely ill-chosen word for Shinkai. You’d need to have watched some of his work to understand – in terribly insufficient words, Shinkai’s productions are highly-tempered, finely-tuned, reflective, retrospective, introspective; a confection of delicate (and sometimes surreal) beauty with a central, solid core of some true observation on life. His latest work, Byousoku 5 Centimeter, was essentially a treatise on distance, love, and longing – while Byousoku focuses on spatial distance, Hoshi no Koe focuses on a more abstract form of distance: time. His characters in Hoshi are removed from each other by miles, yes, thousands and thousands of miles, but their situation is compounded by their being unable to communicate in any form other than by cell-phone messages, and those messages, like delayed carrier pigeons facing the approach of winter in the olden days, take increasing amounts of time to reach each other. By the film’s last quarter, this length of time, as Noboru reflects, pretty much means ‘forever’.
Being only 25 minutes long, Hoshi no Koe doesn’t actually have a whole lot of emotional journeying to take us on. An air of the bittersweet introduces, surrounds, and concludes the film; in between, we get more comfortably (uncomfortably? disturbingly? I rather think that we all enjoy getting depressed in this movie though) acquainted with melancholy and longing. And yet, at the end, there’s also hope – Mikako’s meeting with her own self, imagination or projection, is reassuring, and probably a little cathartic. Besides, if you watch with a careful eye for Noboru’s newspaper clippings and the sign he glances at towards the end of the film, Shinkai seems in favour of reunion. Perhaps a little surprising, considering that Shinkai chose to go the realist’s way in Byousoku 5 Centimeter, and perhaps not, because one gets the feeling Shinkai is really a sentimental fellow at heart. All the same, I don’t think the conclusion is the most important part of Shinkai’s work so much as the characters’ persistence in love and remembrance, and yet in acceptance, is significant. It looks like Shinkai’s aim is in portraying the conflict between moving on and ‘staying here’. Like good short stories and manga, he leaves the problem open and doesn’t attempt to solve it for us. That would be pre-emptive. We would be indignant.

Tracers!

Graphics-wise, Hoshi no Koe was Shinkai’s garden in new spring. He’d already established a kind of balance between CGI and pen-and-paper that was significantly his own: take, for example, the outset scenes of Mikako entering her school’s staircase up to the classroom. The flitting between sketchy lines and fully-shaded animation was intriguing – perhaps it reflects Mikako’s brief journey into a place from her past, into the unreal. While it isn’t quite the same effect, I’m reminded of Byousoku‘s transitions between shots of unnervingly realistic environment detail, like the moving floors of the train carriages, against the two-dimensional faces of the characters. And all of this is combined with an ethereal beauty throughout: curtained snow, single sakura petals, crested roads, ruffled leaves, the looming, wondrous backdrop of Jupiter, the sleek, smoothed edges of the Tarsians. Note that while Byousoku dwelled heavily on the daily and the ordinary, Hoshi takes advantage of the surreal space setting to inject a sense of wonder, of alien-ness (the what am I doing here? pressure), of the unbelievable and the impossible and vast loneliness.

The DVD I borrowed from my (most accommodating) local library also had a bunch of special features that made it worth putting a 25-minute film on DVD – a ‘director’s cut’ (more…)

El Laberinto del Fauno – a gorgeous, and grotesque, realist’s fairytale. (****)

If that makes any sense.

Pan’s Labyrinth Poster

I watched this movie primarily because it seemed, to the uninformed me, the perfect way to wind down after a series of essays and exams. A little girl, the age at which you have fond memories of sticking your hand in the jelly jar; a smattering of mystical beings, a dramatic wartime setting, a beautiful mother and a couple of fairies, all wound around the surefire charm of a quest for identity and discovery. Ahh. That was all I knew, apart from the fact that it had gotten several Academy Award nominations and a win or two, and it had generally fantastic reviews. So I settled back into my chair at 11pm, stuck the disc into my computer, and let it all begin. Damn, was I in for a shock.

The story opens with a girl lying on a ground somewhere, bleeding. We hear her laboured breathing and know she has not long left to live. Then, as we watch, the blood recedes, and we close up into her eye, and into the fairytale underlying the movie: there once was a subterranean world where pain and privation do not exist. However, the princess of that world became curious about the world above, where there was sunlight to be felt and other sensations that she had never felt before. She managed to escape to the world above, but upon emerging, lost her memories because of the brightness of the sun, and eventually died. The king of the underworld was convinced she would one day be reborn and return to the underworld, and would wait for her.

Next, we are introduced to Ofelia, the heroine of the story, and her heavily pregnant, young mother, Carmen. Ofelia is enamoured with fairytales and fairies, and is always lost in a book, or thinking about one. Carmen disapproves of this, but is constantly preoccupied with her unborn child, and is weakened by the long journey so late in her pregnancy. They are travelling by coach to meet Carmen’s new husband and Ofelia’s stepfather, General Vidal. The year is 1944, the setting is post-Civil War Spain, but like all postwar settings, the war hasn’t truly ended. Vidal and his men search out and battle rebels hiding in the woods around, and Vidal himself carries the burden of having to live up to his father’s heroic name. Vidal shows clearly that he is most interested in his unborn child, which he insists is a son, rather than his new wife’s ailing health or her tagalong daughter. Ofelia is left almost entirely friendless: except for an insect she believes is a fairy that she disturbed on the journey to Vidal’s camp, and for Mercedes, Vidal’s housekeeper, who seems to watch out for Ofelia. The insect, or fairy, shows her a hedge labyrinth just off to the side of Vidal’s mansion, and one night, after transforming before Ofelia’s eyes into a winged, tiny human figure, leads her into its depths. There, Ofelia finds the faun of the title (El Laberinto del Fauno, not Pan’s Labyrinth. Pan is the name of a Greek god that resembled (more…)