BloodBoal

The Hayao Miyazaki Retrospective Thread

Recommended Posts

Yes, I of course remember the scene where Chihiro gets the hair tie, I simply didn't notice that it was in her hair at the very end of the film.

 

I have no problems with movies that are ambiguous, and can sustain multiple interpretations, etc. But I don't think Spirited Away is one of them - it's pretty cut and dry what happened, IMHO. Especially when you look at all Miyazaki had done before; There's not a hint of ambiguity in any of his prior films. It'd be odd for him to suddenly do one now.

 

I think its a story that starts in the real world and then involves fantasy elements, like Totoro.

 

Have you watched Howl yet? I might watch it tonight if you have.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

But I don't think Spirited Away is one of them - it's pretty cut and dry what happened, IMHO. Especially when you look at all Miyazaki had done before; There's not a hint of ambiguity in any of his prior films. It'd be odd for him to suddenly do one now.

Doesn't mean a damn thing. There are plenty of examples of directors that did something in a movie they had never done before in all of their previous works.

Spirited Away strikes me as a film that is very open to interpretation. But I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on that!

Have you watched Howl yet?

Yep. Haven't written the review yet, though, and probably won't until a day or two.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Kewl.

 

Spirited Away is just magical. I definitely won't go 13 years between viewings again!

(Actually, I might have watched the DVD when I got it in '03 or whenever it came out... perhaps in the original Japanese audio [since I saw it in theaters in English]. Can't remember now.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

GA8EzDt.png

ハウルの動く城 a.k.a. Howl's Moving Castle - Hayao Miyazaki (2004)

 

Quote

When an unconfident young woman is cursed with an old body by a spiteful witch, her only chance of breaking the spell lies with a self-indulgent yet insecure young wizard and his companions in his legged, walking castle.


Third time watching this one.


This film is the one I was the most looking forward to rewatch (along with Princess Mononoke), not because it was my favourite or anything, but because I remembered so little about it, yet what I did remember was some memorable imagery (the moving castle in the mist, Howl in bird form flying over the battlefield, Howl in his weird cavern...), and I also remembered it was a rather dark film (which is quite unusual for Miyazaki). So, yeah, basically, I didn't remember anything regarding the story, except those striking, dark visuals, which also led me to wonder how Hisaishi's score would sound like... Simply put: I was quite excited to revisit that one!

 

Now, to put things into context, I always had a weird appreciation of that film. When I first watched it, I had only seen Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away from Miyazaki, and I remember I didn't like the film at all, thinking it was too dark, too weird, the plot too confusing, too different from the other two films I had seen... Then, I watched it again a few years later, and, knowing what I was getting into this time around, I appreciated it more, even if I felt it had some shortcomings. But weirdly enough, after having seen it twice, I still couldn't remember anything from the plot! And now, here's that third viewing... How do I feel now? Well, I'm not entirely sure, actually! There's definitely a lot to like in the film, but there's also a lot of it that doesn't work (which, oddly enough, is stuff that generally Miyazaki has no problem with in his films). There are two things worth noting regarding that film. Firstly, this is the second time, after Kiki's Delivery Service, where Miyazaki didn't write the original story, but adapted a book. And secondly, it is a rather dark film (even if it has some lighthearted moments), which probably has to do with the tone of the source material. I think that both those things explain most of the problems with this picture. Miyazaki isn't known for making dark films. Quite the contrary: most of his filmography consist of lighthearted films, with just a few dark elements here and there. And I believe that trying to do a dark film (something I'd say he's not comfortable with) is what led him to "fail" (for lack of a better word).

 

To explain that more clearly: I think the main problem with this film is that Miyazaki didn't write the story (originally, he wasn't even going to direct the film!). If you look at Miyazaki's filmography, you'll see that the stories of all his previous films (minus one) were written by him, so they were very much his own thing. And in the case of Kiki's Delivery Service, while he didn't write it, the original story was quite similar in terms of tone to his previous films. It was something that felt like a good match for him. But in the case of Howl's Moving Castle, it feels like the tone of the original story doesn't match Miyazaki's own universe. Now, I haven't read the book, but I've read the plot summary, and while it doesn't look like a really dark story, it's certainly not as lighthearted as Miyazaki's  films. And I think the consequence of that is an inconsistent tone in the adaptation. You have some dark moments in the film that I think are probably true to the original story (Howl in bird form in his cave, Howl fighting the wizards in monster form...), and then you have lighter stuff that I think probably comes from Miyazaki (Suliman's goofy dog, old Sophie cleaning up the castle, Markl and his magic cloak), and it feels like it doesn't mesh well. Basically, the film is often on the verge of being a really dark tale, but it never goes full steam in that direction, and instead is often interrupted by lighter stuff, which can be frustrating at times. It's a shame, because, based on what I read from the original story, it sounds more compelling than what we got in the film. And everything seems better explained in it, too. In the film, some stuff isn't really explained, but unlike in Spirited Away, where the unexplained stuff was a part of the film's charm, here, it just makes the story feel confusing. For example, Sophie sometimes becomes a young woman again, but then goes back to being an old woman, then a young woman again, etc... And when you think you finally understand the logic behind those sudden changes in appearance, it happens in another scene for no reason. It often feels random. There are other examples. I'm not sure why Sophie decides to destroy the castle at the end of film, only to rebuild it again right after that. The time travelling scene is another problematic sequence: how exactly does Sophie get to travel in time by going through the door? How exactly does she understands the contract that binds Calcifer and Howl just by seeing what she sees there? And I'm not even sure what that contract was all about. And finally, there's the whole Turniphead deus ex machina. What the hell was that? How did the prince ended up being turned into a scarecrow? Who did that? How? It all just felt like a convenient way to end the conflict and have a happy ending. It didn't feel Miyazaki-like (even if apparently, that wasn't in the book, so that was something he added himself), it was too abrupt and didn't work well with everything that came before that.

 

There's also a problem with the way Miyazaki dealt with the characters. The best example of that is the Witch Of The Waste, who seems like a bit of an unecessary character in the film (she doesn't do much apart from turning Sophie into an old woman), yet her book counterpart sounds like a much more fascinating character. I don't know why Miyazaki decided to turn her into this old helpless woman by the end of the film, but it doesn't feel like an interesting change. And because of that, she's not a very engaging character (she's actually a very unpleasant one. That scene where she's climbing the stairs of the royal palace... Oh my, that was one uncomfortable scene to watch). In fact, that's a problem the other characters have, too. Sophie is a bit of a bland lead (she's sometimes funny as an old woman, but I never really cared for her). Suliman is not a charismatic villain (we don't see her long enough for her to make a lasting impression, anyway, and again, the character is too different from her/his book counterpart). Calcifer is OK I guess, but is part of what makes the tone of the film feel inconsistent. Howl is an interesting character, though his random mood swings are sometimes a bit annoying. In the end, I only really liked Markl and his cool magic cloak, and Turniphead (probably my favourite character!).

 

Despite all this, the movie still has nice moments to offer nonetheless: the scene where Sophie meets Howl and they escape the Witch Of The Waste's henchmen and start flying above the town was a lovely bit, with great music to accompany it (it happens a tad too early in the film, in my opinion, though). The whole scene leading up to Sophie's arrival at the castle is also awesome: love the twilight as she is walking up the hill, followed by Turniphead (great work on colors there), then the castle reveal (I would have preferred if this was actually the first scene in which we would have seen the castle, actually. I think it would have made it even more powerful). The magical door sequence is another memorable moment: the idea itself is quite fun, and the inner workings of the castle are well explained during that scene. As mentioned above, I also really dig the scenes with Howl flying over the battlefield and fighting the wizards, as well as the scene where he comes back at the castle in bird form, and rest in front of the fireplace. Then of course, there's that scene where Sophie goes into the weird cave and sees Howl in monster form at the end of it. Superb stuff right there! If there's only one image to remember from the film, I'd say that's the one. And finally, there's the time travelling scene, which, even if a bit confusing, still works and makes a big impression thanks to Hisaishi's breathtaking music and the stunning visuals.

 

The film is also visually striking. As I said in the first few paragraphs, the only thing I remembered from the film after watching the film twice were particular shots, so surely it means something! Just like the story is probably the darkest in any Miyazaki film, so are the visuals in it. One just has to look at the screencaps I posted below my review to see that. Of course, there are many scenes and locations that are more colourful (like the royal palace or Howl's secret garden, for example), but overall, this has to be the Miyazaki film with the gloomiest visuals during its entire duration. But that's far from a bad thing because, wow, do these visuals look splendid! Every scene taking place at night, or on a cloudy day, or during sunset is a joy to look at. Another thing I liked about the film was that there were less 3D elements used this time around, and the computer graphics were integrated more smoothly into the picture. In terms of production design, there is excellent stuff, and then there is rather average stuff. The castle itself looks fantastic. A great crazy design (love the fact the castle actually has facial features), both on the outside and on the inside. Sophie's town also looks good, and so does Howl's secret garden. When it comes to the creature design, I'm particularly fond of the Witch of the Waste's henchmen, more specifically the palanquin carriers. The wizards are another cool design, even if often only glanced briefly. Howl in bird form looks badass. Calcifer is the one design I'm not fond of, as he really feels out of place compared to all the rest. It feels like he's from another film! Then there's the Witch of the Waste, which to me, has an awful design (again, that scene where she's climbing up the stairs was absolutely disgusting to watch and went on for far too long). The rest of the characters look fine (was anyone else confused by the fact that both Sophie's sister and her mother looked so much alike, though? That confused me at first, when it was written in the subtitles it was her mother in the scene she appears in, as I thought it was her sister). And of course, as usual in Miyazaki's later films, you can see a few stuff from his older works being reused: here, we have the Flaptors from Castle In The Sky (though maybe that was in the book), the boy working for Suliman looked very much like a blonde Haku, and the war ships' design is reminiscent of the ones found in Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind.

 

Hisaishi's score is another strong aspect of the film. It was, as I said above, one of the main reasons why I was really excited to rewatch the film, as I didn't remember anything from it, but was intrigued regarding how he treated the darker material of the film. Well, it turns out the music isn't that dark, actually! It is for the most part a pretty joyful score, with lots of upbeat moments, which I found surprising. But I really dig it! There is a lot of material I absolutely loved. In fact, I think it may be my new favourite Hisaishi score! It starts in a rather ominous manner with the track Opening - The Merry-Go-Round Of Life, with an organ playing the first few bars. But it's actually not representative of the tone of the score at all, as it is quickly replaced by gentler music leading directly into the main theme of the film, a waltz-like dreamy melody that is quite prominent throughout the entire film. The first big rendition the theme gets is heard in Stroll Through The Sky, accompanying the scene where Howl and Sophie are flying over the town. The theme then reappears in many places throughout the score: Heart Aflutter, Spring Cleaning, To The Lake Of Stars, Quiet Feelings, In The Rain, Vanity And Friendship, The Flower Garden, Love Of War... It's all over it! If one has to be honest, though, many of those statements are quite similar to one another, and the listening experience would benefit from having a few of those cut out (as it does get repetitive after a while). That being said, the theme does get an interesting lenghtier treatment in Wandering Sophie, where it is given some cool pastoral sounding variations. But the best renditions of it are heard in the second half of the score, starting with A 90 Year Old Young Girl, where the first heroic statement of the theme is heard, and later expanded in Suliman's Magic Square - Return To The Castle (probably the best rendition of the theme). We get a few more similar energetic statements of the theme in tracks like Run!, and the triumphant Sophie's Castle.

 

Apart from that theme, there's not a lot of thematic material. The Witch Of The Waste gets a small motif heard in The Witch Of The Waste, The Indelible Curse and Vanity And Friendship, a sinister melody played by woodwinds: it's nice but not particularly memorable. A third theme in the score is the one for Sophie. It is introduced in Moving, and reappears in Family. It's a lovely melody with a great whimsical second phrase played on glockenspiel, which would have deserved to show up more in the score. The last thematic idea, which is easily the best thing from the score, can be associated to Howl. It is first heard in fragments in The Secret Cave and is then given a full blown-out rendition throughout most of The Boy Who Drank Stars. A grand majestic and lyrical theme which is, to me, the single best melody Hisaishi came up with (at least, based on everything I've heard from him)! It's awe-inspiring. Gorgeous stuff. The incidental material in the score ain't bad, either. Bloody love the militaristic fanfare in The Courageous Cavalry, a pompous buyoant march for the scene where the army is going to war. A highlight of the score for me! The Magical Door is another pretty cool moment in the score: it is basically based around one little melody, which is given many variations throughout the track. There is some nice woodwind writing in the first half of To The Lake Of Stars too. The whole first half of Suliman's Magic Square - Return To The Castle is another great moment, giving us terribly effective tense music that keeps on building and building until it explodes into a wonderful statement of the main theme. Finally, there's Love Of War or the second half of Sophie's Castle which offer cool action material. All in all, this score is a wonderful work, which really elevates the film it was written for.

In the end, Howl's Moving Castle is a pretty flawed flick: the tone is not very consistent, most of the characters aren't really engaging, the story is a bit all over the place... Most of it has to do with the fact Miyazaki didn't manage to appropriate the story and make it his own. Still, the film has some redeeming qualities: absolutely gorgeous visuals, a killer score, and a few memorable sequences. And you can't help but admire what Miyazaki was trying to achieve, even if he didn't quite succeed (well, in my opinion anyway). It's not a bad film, rather an imperfect one... Still worth watching, though!

6.5/10

 

 

Opening: The Merry-Go-Round Of Life

 

The Courageous Cavalry

 

Stroll Through The Sky

 

The Magical Door

 

The Indelible Curse

 

In The Rain

 

Suliman's Magic Square - Return To The Castle

 

Moving

 

Love Of War

 

The Boy Who Drank Stars

 

 

3qcj8fZ.png
TmvRwUr.png
ltgzs3X.png
eWC0jlE.png
FSfZC8M.png

 

 

P.S.: Here's an interesting comparison between some elements of the book and the film:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howl's_Moving_Castle_(film)#Differences_between_film_and_novel

 

Quote

The film is very different from Jones' original novel. The plot is similar, but it is flavored with Miyazaki's familiar style and characters, as well as several missing or drastically altered key plot points from the book. The plot is still focused on Sophie and her adventure while cursed with old age. The movie retains the novel's original story line of how Sophie gradually grows from thinking of herself as a plain, ordinary girl who pales in comparison to her popular and beautiful sister Lettie to ultimately coming to accept herself for who she is and thinking of herself as a beautiful woman. However, the main action of the film's story takes place during a war, and its plot is chiefly concerned with Howl's refusing to help both kings and sabotaging both armies' materiel for pacifist reasons. Also, the relationship of Howl and Sophie differs between the novel and the movie in that the two gradually develop their relationship through lots of bickering and quarreling in the novel while the movie does not portray this aspect as much.


Sophie herself is different in the film and in the novel. For instance, Sophie's personality is a little more irate in the novel; she also possesses magic, unlike her counterpart in the film.


In contrast, the novel is concerned with Howl's womanizing and his attempts to lift the curse upon himself (discovering later how his lethal predicament is entangled with the fates of a lost wizard and prince) as well as running from the incredibly powerful and beautiful Witch of the Waste, who is the story's main villain and not at all the old yet harmless character she plays on screen. Also in the book, the Witch of the Waste was later killed by Howl while the anime film keeps her alive in an old age. Another noteworthy difference is that Sophie, in the book, is herself an unwitting sorceress totally unaware of her power, with the ability to "talk life into things" like the hats she makes and her own walking stick; objects take on a life of their own the more attention Sophie gives to them.


The book detours for one chapter into 20th-century Wales, where Howl is known as Howell Jenkins and has a sister with children. This glimpse into Howl's complicated past is not shown in the film, but one of Howl's aliases is "The Great Wizard Jenkins".


In addition, Sophie has two sisters in the book, Lettie and Martha, not just one. Markl is called Michael in the book, is 15, and is in love with Sophie's youngest sister, Martha (in the novel, Howl also courts Lettie for a while). Suliman is actually a man from Wales whose real name is Ben Sullivan, not a woman as portrayed in the movie. The film conflates this Suliman as a powerful wizard in his own right who has gone missing after a confrontation with the Witch of the Waste, with Mrs. Penstemmon, the Professor who taught Howl sorcery and gives Sophie clues as to how to free Calcifer and Howl from their contract. Neither is an enemy of the heroine in the book. Besides Martha, several other characters were left out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1280x720-kuo.jpg

 

Howl's Moving Castle

 

Well, this was the first Miyazaki movie I kind of didn't like :( I saw it in the theaters when it came out, but had retained no memories of it (or even how much I liked/didn't like it). I probably appreciated it more at the time, since it was probably my 3rd or 4th Miyazaki movie I had seen. Watching it now, in sequence after recently watching everything he did before, it really didn't play too well for me.

 

The biggest problem is the storytelling. This is by far his most complex and hard-to-follow plot (not that I'm saying it's literally hard to follow, but it is the MOST like that). It starts off perfectly fine, I loved the introduction to Sophie, when she escapes from the blobs with Howl, her curse and then ending up in Howl's castle, etc. But then when it starts getting into Howl's angst and how he doesn't want to live if he can't be beautiful, etc the film really started to lose me. I thought it was kind of interesting that the film does a switch on you, with you thinking the Wicked Witch of the Waste is the villain when its really Suliman, but that didn't get explored too well (Suliman is barely in the movie!) and the politics of the war and the motivations of most characters are pretty muddled.

 

No problems with the animation though, it was pretty great. Not as perfect and stunning as Mononoke and Spirited, but still very good. The CGI was perfectly integrated with the hand-drawn animation. I quite liked the look of Howl's Castle, from how it moved (reminded me of Monty Python) to how it reconfigured and the various permutations it goes through.

 

Hisasaishi's score was great, I really enjoyed everything I heard. Sounds like it could be the most accessible score yet.

 

I watched the English dub, and really enjoyed Emily Mortimer and Jean Simmons as Sophie, Billy Crystal as Calcifer, Christain Bale as Howl, and Lauren Bacall as the Witch. I saw later that pre-puberty Josh Hutcherson played Markl.

 

So not a great film - not terrible by any means. In a vacuum, I'd probably enjoy it more - especially if it was, say the first Miyazaki movie I had scene (because its full of so much great animation, creatures, fantasy elements, and just random cool stuff). Turnip Head is a great character! But for me the storytelling suffered, and I'd put it behind all his other films.

 

So now I'd rank them

 

1. Spirited Away
2. Princess Mononoke
3. Nausciaa of the Valley of the Wind
4. My Neighbor Totoro
5. Castle In The Sky
6. Kiki's Delivery Service
7. Castle of Cagliostro
8. Porco Rosso
9. How's Moving Castle

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Howl's Moving Castle

Well, this was the first Miyazaki movie I kind of didn't like :( I saw it in the theaters when it came out, but had retained no memories of it (or even how much I liked/didn't like it).

Interesting you didn't remember anything from the film either, just like me. It's a bit weird, because even if the movie is far from perfect, it does have some memorable moments.

The biggest problem is the storytelling. This is by far his most complex and hard-to-follow plot (not that I'm saying it's literally hard to follow, but it is the MOST like that). It starts off perfectly fine, I loved the introduction to Sophie, when she escapes from the blobs with Howl, her curse and then ending up in Howl's castle, etc. But then when it starts getting into Howl's angst and how he doesn't want to live if he can't be beautiful, etc the film really started to lose me. I thought it was kind of interesting that the film does a switch on you, with you thinking the Wicked Witch of the Waste is the villain when its really Suliman, but that didn't get explored too well (Suliman is barely in the movie!) and the politics of the war and the motivations of most characters are pretty muddled.

I agree that the story is a bit confusing at times, though I blame it more on the way Miyazaki adapted the story than on the story itself. I read a summary of the book, and the story doesn't sound as disconcerting as it is in the film.

Hisasaishi's score was great, I really enjoyed everything I heard. Sounds like it could be the most accessible score yet.

It is a good score indeed. Very European/classical-sounding, so maybe it's easier for our Western ears to connect to it.

So not a great film - not terrible by any means. In a vacuum, I'd probably enjoy it more - especially if it was, say the first Miyazaki movie I had scene (because its full of so much great animation, creatures, fantasy elements, and just random cool stuff). Turnip Head is a great character! But for me the storytelling suffered, and I'd put it behind all his other films.

I agree the film suffers a bit from the comparison from Miyazaki's previous works but that there's still some quality stuff to be found in it. It's a pretty fair assessment of it.

So now I'd rank them

1. Spirited Away
2. Princess Mononoke
3. Nausciaa of the Valley of the Wind
4. My Neighbor Totoro
5. Castle In The Sky
6. Kiki's Delivery Service
7. Castle of Cagliostro
8. Porco Rosso
9. How's Moving Castle

Well, this is interesting. Quite different from my own ranking (which has changed a bit after having seen Ponyo and after reconsidering what each film has to offer). Will post it when I'm done with the last two films!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I might rethink my whole ranking once I've seen all 11 and marinated on some. For now I've just been inserting each new one into the existing list where I felt it belonged. But looking at my list now, I already have more fond memories of Kiki than a lot of films I have higher, for example.

 

Btw, is Howl considered by the general public to be among Miyazaki's top or bottom of his output?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I might rethink my whole ranking once I've seen all 11 and marinated in some. For now I've just been inserting each new one into the existing list where I felt it belonged. But looking at my list now, I already have more fond memories of Kiki than a lot of films I have higher, for example.

I honestly can't understand all the love Kiki gets (I'm not referring just to you), many people calling it one of their favourite Miyazaki films. I mean, sure, it's not a bad film, but what it does it have to offer, really? There were no major moments that really stood out, to me.

Btw, is Howl considered by the general public to be among Miyazaki's top or bottom of his output?

I think most people consider it to be his weakest film (or one of his weakest), and I can see why: it's rather dark, some characters are just downring unpleasant (I'm looking at you, Witch Of The Waste!), as you said, the plot is hard to follow, etc.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
OK BloodBoal, I've read your review now and its funny how similar we think about this film.

 

I agree its a bit confusing how the curses worked, and what the time travel thingy was all about, etc.

 

You bring up a good point that he wrote all his other films except one, and that one just "fit" into his general style, so it doesn't stick out as being wildly different. Howl does. I see now that another person at Ghibli was supposed to direct but left so Miyazaki took over, but even that only partly explains the shortcomings this film has. It still has story telling and tone problems, and just "feels" un-Miyaki-like.

 

Really, if I had to sum up succintly what doesn't work for me with this film, its that it lacks "magic". None of his other films are perfect (except maybe Spirited Away), but they all work regardless, just because of some intangible quality I'll just call Miyazaki's magic.

 

And yes, at the end when Turnip Head turns into some random prince, its really bizarre and some of the worst exposition I've seen. "Thank you! I'm that Prince that had gone missing" or whatever. Not good!

 

Oh well. It wasn't a suprise to me that Miyazaki peaked with Spirited Away, and his "swan songs" are lesser effects. As such, I wasn't really dissapointed with my viewing, despite the fact I didn't really like it. He already gave us 8 great films before this, so I can't fault him with experimenting with his final three.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I wouldn't say the movie is completely un-Miyazaki-like, rather that it has Miyazaki-like elements that are always in opposition with other non-Miyazaki-like elements, which is the reason why it doesn't work.

And about the lack of what you call Miyazaki's magic: while I agree for the most part, I still think there are moments where it is very much present, such as the scene where Howl and Sophie fly over the rooftops, or the flashback sequence... These scenes work wonderfully because of it. But It is sparser than in his other films, yeah.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bq7N3EZ.png

 

崖の上のポニョ a.k.a Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea - Hayao Miyazaki (2008)

 

Quote
An adventure about a five-year-old boy and his relationship with Ponyo, a goldfish princess who longs to become a human after falling in love with him.

 

First time watching this one.

 

Well, this is quite a surprising film, especially when compared to the one that came right before it. Howl's Moving Castle was Miyazaki's darkest film, both storywise and visually, Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea is the polar opposite of that. What we have here is a very colourful and lighthearted flick which is probably Miyazaki's most kid-oriented movie (and that's both its strength and its weakness, in a way). It's also a very soothing feature: as I was watching it, I felt very relaxed. Simply put, it's a nice feel-good film. But is that enough to make it a great film? To be honest, I'm not sure that's the case.

 

Let's start with the story and the characters. After his three biggest films to date, both in terms of length (around 2 hours long each) and scope, Miyazaki went back to making a smaller film, similar to My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service. The story here is pretty basic: a boy and a girl fall in love, one person is trying to separate them, adventures ensue. That's it, in a nutshell. Of course, there's a bit more to it, but not that much more. The problem with the story is not actually that's it's simple, but that some things are in fact not very clear, or feel downright lazy and as a result, they make the characters' motivations feel a bit hazy. For example, everything regarding Fujimoto is confusing. At first, it looks like he wants the oceans to cover all the lands (he says that himself quite bluntly) and he doesn't want Ponyo to be with Sosuke, because he doesn't like humans. Yet, suddenly, when Ponyo fucks everything up, and the oceans do cover all the lands, he starts panicking for whatever reason and contacts Granmamare to fix everything. Wait, what? Isn't what happened exactly what he wanted? Why does he tries to fix anything? And then, at the very end of the film, it seems he has no problem with humans for some reason and is OK with Ponyo living with Sosuke? What? Then there's the problem with what Ponyo did. What exactly did she do? Why is the world suddenly going to end just because she turned into a human? And why does she starts falling asleep and going back to being a fish towards the end of the film? And how did Fujimoto know Sosuke and Ponyo were going to go to the Sunflower House (as he waited for them here)? There are many questions left unanswered, and not necessarily to keep an air of mystery. I didn't need an overly long explanation going into much detail, but this is too much "just roll with it" stuff to really make for a satisfying experience. The ending especially comes out of nowhere and feels totally random (Sosuke's father suddenly arriving at the island for whatever reason, Fujimoto apologizing to Sosuke for whatever reason...).

 

The characters can be divided into two groups: the ones that are likeable and the ones that are just too weird for us to really care about them. In the first group, we have Ponyo, who is a cute character who is easy to relate to (though her mutant form between fish and human is a bit freaky!), Sosuke who is quite mature for his age (and because of that, thankfully not the annoying character he could have easily been), and Lisa and her completely crazy driving skills (what the fuck was that all about? Holy shit, that was intense). Then we have the second group, with characters like Fujimoto. A weird character with a weird design and extremely weird motivations. As I said above, I'm still not sure what he was really trying to do throughout the film, and because of that, his character didn't interest me (he was occasionally funny, though, such as in the scene where's he's using the water spray as he tries to get Ponyo back). I find it to be a bit of missed opportunity, as at the beginning of the film, I was quite intrigued by him and his odd design, but as the story went along, and his decisions made less and less sense, I just ended up losing interest in him. Then there's Granmamare, this god-like character who represents the sea and whose motivations are as unclear as Fujimoto's (does she have any, anyway?), and whose role in the story is a bit hazy, too. And finally, we have the grumpy Toki, one peculiar old lady for sure. Yep, for the most part, the characters are a mixed bag for me. I felt this was an aspect of the film that could have been improved upon.

 

While the overall story and the characters suffer from a few problems, the film still has some really cool moments to offer: the flash signal sequence, that is both funny (with Lisa yelling at Sosuke's father using the light signal) and touching (with the whole boat lighting up), Ponyo's escape from the coral tower (quite a crazy scene), the tsunami sequence of course, with that fantastic Hisaishi cue and mindblowing animation (a super combination of music and visuals which is easily one of Miyazaki's finest moments in any of his films), the scene with all the lights on the horizon that turn out to be boats on a giant wave, the tunnel scene (a bit reminiscent of Spirited Away)... That being said, the film also has a few weird moments that feel a bit random (but that probably have some sort of meaning). As I mentioned above, there are the crazy driving scenes with Lisa: is there a point to these? Was Miyazaki trying to tell us something through this or is it just something he wanted to have in the film just because? Is it a way to make us understand Lisa has trouble juggling with all her problems (her husband being away, her job at the Sunflower House, her kid with that fish...) which drive her crazy and make her drive crazily? Then there's that scene with the baby: what the hell was that? I'm sure there's a meaning to it, but I just don't see it, so I'm left with an unsettling scene. The film has a few more of those moments that, while they obviously don't ruin it, distract from the viewing experience a bit.

 

Visually, the film is quite a departure from Miyazaki's previous film. After the richly detailed Howl's Moving Castle, here, Miyazaki gives us a film with a very simple, to-the-point (so to speak) drawing style, very childlike. Indeed, the visuals of the film look like they came out straight out of a children's book. And while this is an art style I'm generally not fond of, here, for some reason, I like it very much! That visual style is the perfect match for the story being told here and I think the movie looks gorgeous, and that there's a soothing quality to the visuals (I particularly like the night scenes in that regard). You feel serene when watching the film. A big reason for that is the use of pastel colors, which give the movie its unique and relaxing look. The colors are really used to great effect throughout the film (for example, during Ponyo's escape from the coral tower, with all the golden fish following her). Also, while the drawing style is very much simple, the visuals are far from unimpressive. There's still a richness to be found onscreen. Right from the very first sequence, you can see lots and lots of underwater creatures which create a profusion of colours and forms which just look great. The tsunami sequence is also mindblowing in terms of animation, with the fish looking like waves and Ponyo jumping from one wave to the next. It's flawless, really. Interestingly, Miyazaki decided to go back to hand-drawn animation with that film and I have to say it suits it perfectly. The inclusion of 3D elements simply wouldn't have worked with this film.

 

Hisaishi's score for the film is an impressive work, though I don't think I love it as much as some people seem to. I acknowledge it is really well-written music, with impressive setpieces and solid themes (even if I don't quite connect to most of them), but on the whole, I guess it's a bit too happy-go-lucky to my taste, and as a result, while I do like parts of it, I'm not hugely fond of it. This is a richly thematic score, possibly Hisaishi's most thematic score ever, actually. Almost every cue feature at least one theme (or more) being developed in one form or another. One problem I have with them though is that many of them sound quite similar (I often have a hard time telling the less obvious ones apart). The main theme, the one for Ponyo is heard right at the beginning of the film, in Deep Sea Ranch. It's a very memorable and upbeat theme that gets many variations throughout the score (Encounter, Hot-Bulb Engine Ship, Baby And Ponyo...), the most noteworthy being of course the one heard in Flight Of Ponyo (and then reprised in Ponyo Of The Fish Of The Wave), with its Ride Of The Valkyries homage (or is it rip-off?), a highlight of the score for sure. Interestingly, this theme's presence slowly decreases as the story progresses (maybe to underline the fact that Ponyo is slowly becoming less of a fish and more of a human?). The second major thematic idea could be called Ponyo's Journey theme, to accompany Ponyo's journey as she goes from being a fish to becoming a human. The progression of that theme is basically the opposite of Ponyo's theme: it only gets sparse statements in the first half of the score, and progressively becomes more and more present. It is introduced in Ponyo And Sosuke and then reappears in New Family, To The Sea Of Dipnorhynchus, Fleet March, Voyage Of Sosuke, Tears Of Sosuke and finally gets a triumphant rendition in Little Sisters (the second track with that title), thus completing Ponyo's journey from fish to human!

 

A third major thematic idea is the one for Granmamare, which first appears in Mother Of The Sea, and is then heard in Night Of The Meteor and Song Of Praise For Mother And The Sea. It is one of my least favourite melodies from the score, as I find it to be too... I don't know, cheesy? A theme I prefer is the one for the sea itself, first heard in Deep Sea Ranch: it's a grand majestic melody with some fluttering contours which encapsulate the underwater world perfectly. Another thematic idea I quite like is the family theme: it is introduced in Flash Signal where it gets a rendition both on strings and then on piano, and then reappears in Lisa's Determination (with a pretty good horn solo) and finally in Mother's Love, with a stunning choral statement (one of my favourite moments in the score). Following this is Fujimoto's theme, a rather whimsical theme which gets a cool action-oriented variation in Ura Town, and then more formal renditions in Fujimoto and at the end of Tunnel. The Sunflower House also gets a theme, which shows up in Sunflower House In The Storm and in Underwater Town (gorgeous choral statement here!). Then we have Lisa's theme (heard in Ura Town, Ponyo And Sosuke and Ponyo Of The Fish Of The Wave) which isn't particularly remarkable. Finally, rounding off the thematic material is the fleet march (which appears in both Fleet March tracks, obviously), a martial melody which is probably my favourite theme in the entire score. There are a few other little thematic ideas throughout the score (such as the one-off Little Sisters (great uplifting tune) or Ponyo's Lullaby), but these are the main ones, really. Overall, it definitely is a remarkable score, richly thematic and richly orchestrated, but unfortunately most themes don't do much for me (and sound too much like one another), and the music is just so damn upbeat during the entire running time that it turns out to be a bit grating by the end of it (with moments like in Kumiko and Lisa's House where the music is just pure mickey mousing and goes nowhere). I can see why people love it, as I myself like big parts of it, but it's definitely not my favourite Hisaishi score!

 

Ponyo On The Cliff By The Sea has a lot going for it (gorgeous visual style, a lovely score, an unusual universe...) but... it's not entirely satisfying. It's missing a little something that would make it more than just a well-made film. Part of it has to do with the story, which kind of falls apart in the second half and features a completely random ending, but it's not limited to that. It's still hard for me to pinpoint exactly what didn't work. Maybe it's because it's more kid-oriented than the previous films Miyazaki  did. Maybe it's something else. But the truth is: even if I enjoyed watching the film, it's not one I feel I'd really want to rewatch anytime soon. A solid film, but not a really striking one.

 

6/10

 

 

Deep Sea Ranch

 

Mother Of The Sea

 

Flash Signal

 

Fujimoto

 

Little Sisters

 

Flight Of Ponyo

 

Ponyo's Lullaby

 

Fleet March 2

 

Underwater Town

 

Mother's Love

 

 

JSuyHiu.png

dN6pCRs.png

pfOVbgZ.png

Zgp1Szi.png

gR7JAyD.png

 

 

P.S.: This is yet another film Miyazaki wanted to make a sequel for, before he finally decided to make The Wind Rises:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ponyo#Production

 

Quote

Miyazaki wanted his next film to be Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea 2 but producer Toshio Suzuki convinced him to make The Wind Rises instead.

 

I wonder what kind of story he would have told in that one...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I personally felt that Princess Mononoke was the last Miyazaki film that truly enchanted me. I once liked Spirited Away, but I kinda drew away from it. I found Howl disappointing but still gorgeous, while with Ponyo I felt it started great, but dive-bombed after the tsunami scene in the second half. The Wind Rises just bored me to tears, and I wasn't thrilled with the love story. Again, however, your mileage may vary.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

LQ60ijc.png

 

風立ちぬ a.k.a. The Wind Rises - Hayao Miyazaki (2013)

 

Quote

A look at the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the man who designed Japanese fighter planes during World War II.

 

First time watching that one.

 

Well, I certainly didn't expect to end this retrospective on such a low note! I wouldn't say this film is bad (I don't consider any of Miyazaki's films to be bad), just not engrossing. Funnily enough, this is probably Miyazaki's most personal film, as it's a story about planes (which Miyazaki is of course passionate about), and as his own father participated in the creation of the A6M Zero fighter planes (the plane designed by Jiro Horikoshi!). The main problem here I believe is that Miyazaki focused too much on the technical aspect of things rather than on the characters' emotional journey, which makes the story not particularly engaging. You have lots and lots of scenes with characters talking about how they could make the plane lighter, or how they could make it more resistant to air pressure, or whatever... But if you're not into planes, you just don't feel invested in what's happening onscreen. That being said, that doesn't explain everything. Many movies about a certain topic people are not interested about still make them feel invested. Take Rocky, for example. It's a movie about boxing, yet many people who have no interest in boxing like this film. Why? Because it has interesting characters, it has an interesting emotional journey. And even without that, some movies manage to show their topic in such a light that it makes it look accessible even for people who have no interest in it. But the film lacks all that. The creation of planes is never made easy to understand (and anyway, if it's to make war machines, why should we want the characters to achieve their goal?), it's all pretty blurry, and the characters working on them are just not likable. I never really cared for Jiro, nor his workmates (not even sure what their names are. Just remember his pal who goes with him to Germany, and the angry little man). And then you have that weird-looking man (you know which one I'm talking about!) with his downright disturbing grey eyes, which you believe is up to no good (because of his look) but ultimately does nothing to our hero, so...

 

All of this isn't helped by a rather confusing story and confusing editing. There are many time jumps that are never made clear. For example, you have a scene where young Jiro says "I want to be a plane designer", then we cut to a shot of him walking outside, and then, BAM! cut to an older guy sitting in a train. At first, I thought we cut to another character (since the older Jiro doesn't look much like his younger self). Took me a minute or two before realizing the movie had moved a few years forward in time. Then we get that again later in the film: there's the earthquake sequence, then there are a few scenes with Jiro at the university and suddenly, as he talks with his sister, we learn that two years have passed since the earthquake. Whaaat? Then, a few scenes after that, we see him going to work for Mitsubishi, so he apparently graduated, but we were never told that... The movie just keeps on doing these time jumps without warning which doesn't make for a really smooth viewing experience. The same thing happens with locations. So, the first third of the film takes place in Japan. So far so good. Jiro travels from his hometown to Tokyo to study and later to find a job. So far so good. But then, right after the second act begins, things start to get a lot more muddled... He travels to Germany with his buddy to work on some German plane. OK. But then, his friend tells him he's going back to Japan, while he (Jiro) will have to stay there. And from that point onwards, everything is confusing: at some point, looks like he's back in Japan, in other scenes, it looks like he's in Germany, then he spends time in that hotel in the mountain (which I'm not sure if it's supposed to be in Japan or in Germany...) for some random reason and where he just happens to stumble across Naoko... It's all pretty unclear. The fact that you never really know where the characters are or why doesn't make it easy for you to care about what's happening to them...

 

Does the film still has some good stuff to offer? Sure. There are a few good scenes, regardless of the rest. The dream sequences, while not as effective as in other Miyazaki films, still work pretty well for the most part (especially the last scene in the film). The earthquake scene was quite impressive (the sound design being only comprised of voices was an inspired idea). The love story worked for me (even if it was more a case of: "Oh, she's dying. That sad" rather than me being really invested emotionally with the characers). And overall, the third act was more or less satisfying compared to what came before. But ultimately, that's not enough. The movie is too "all over the place", there's too much stuff crammed into it: there's the love story, the creation of planes, Japan going through the Great Depression, World War II... And it never gels to make a cohesive whole. And it's too long, too. Frankly, halfway through it, I already felt quite bored and saw that there were still an hour left till the end of the film! Really didn't expect to care so little about that film... A shame.

 

In terms of visuals, the film is OK, but it doesn't have a lot of really arresting shots to offer. It's all well-drawn of course, but it still looks a bit mundane. Of all the Miyazaki films, this is probably the one with the least interesting visuals (the main reason being obviously that it takes place in the real world, which we're all used to). The characters do not look particularly distinctive (except perhaps Castorp, but in a bad way). Still, there are great moments to be found in there: the whole earthquake sequence offers some stunning animation, the dream sequences look great too (love that moment when Jiro's working at Mitsubishi and he's picturing the plane flying and all the sheets start flying around him and suddenly his friend come and tell him to go eat with him and it transitions to Jiro working at his desk. Gonna put a gif of that moment!), and one thing I noticed is that the skies look fantastic in all scenes (it seems extra care was put into those for this film). There were also a few 3D effects used here and there that were rather well integrated into the film. All in all, this is definitely not a bad-looking film, just not a feast for the eyes like other Miyazaki's films were.

 

tumblr_n7jhvqLdjx1rb06tgo1_250.gif

 

And finally, we have Hisaishi's music, which is, along with Porco Rosso, my least favourite score of the Miyazaki/Hisaishi collaboration. Just like any other Hisashi's score, there's good stuff to be found, but here, a major problem is the lack of diversity. Indeed, if you look at the tracklist, you see a lot of tracks that are titled Journey, the difference being a word (or a few words) added in-between parenthesis after Journey (for example: Journey (Determination), Journey (Sister), Journey (Farewell), etc.), and what it means is that all of these tracks just feature variations on the Journey theme, so you have a third of the album/score consisting of just variations on that main theme! And on the same principle, you have quite a few tracks featuring just variations on the love theme (Naoko (Fate), Naoko (Rainbow), etc.). So, to put it simply: about half of the album are either variations on the main theme or the love theme, the rest being mostly inconsequential incidental cues. Of course, that's a bit of an oversimplification, but that's mostly how I feel about it. Now, if I am to be a bit more specific...

 

The main theme (a.k.a the Journey theme) is a nice European-sounding melody, which makes for an interesting contrast to the (for the most part) Japanese setting of the film. I like the theme enough, though I much prefer the second phrase of it (heard at 01:48 in Journey (Dreamy Flight) for example) over the first one, which is a bit more run-off-the-mill. That second phrase gets a great triumphant statement in Journey (Wind Of Italia) and another gorgeous variation at 00:40 in Journey (Dreamland). A problem with that theme (and the other themes as well) is that it isn't really developed. Every time it appears, it's always pretty much in the same fashion, the variations are not much different from one another, which makes them all feel quite repetitive. Naoko's theme (a.k.a. the love theme of the film) is a sweet, almost fragile melody that is absolutely lovely (it gets a sublime development in Naoko (Yearning)). It is a bit too reminiscent of the main theme of Castle In The Sky, but that's not a huge problem, since that theme was good anyway. Caproni's theme is a bold, pompous theme that almost feels like a call to adventure. It ain't bad, but it's probably the lesser of all the themes. Rounding off the thematic material is Castorp's theme, another European-sounding melody with an air of mystery attached to it, which is rather effective even if not especially noteworthy. The non-thematic cues vary from good to barely OK. You have cues like Shooting Star (which offers nice gentle music) Evacuation (featuring some cool woodwinds and strings writing), Benefactor, Junkers (great variations on a one-off melody in this one) which are on the good side of things, and then you have cues like Excitement, Falcon Squad, Falcon, Wind, Paper Airplane, Surveillant Prototype 8 that feel rather meh, "been-there-done-that". In the end, apart from the second phrase of the main theme, and the love theme, the score doesn't have a lot of highlights to offer. Just like the film, the score is an underwhelming ending to the Hisaishi/Miyazaki collaboration. Too bad.

 

So this is how Miyazaki's filmography ends: with a disappointingly unengaging film. A hard-to-follow story, characters you don't really care about, a barely OK score, not particularly remarkable visuals... It's a shame, really. Thankfully, the very last scene is rather excellent (so you leave the film not completely dissatisfied with it), and makes for a remarkably fitting ending for Miyazaki's career as a director, too. Too bad the rest of the film just didn't live up to that.

 

5/10

 

 

Journey (Dreamy Flight)

 

Shooting Star

 

Caproni (Engineer's Dream)

 

Evacuation

 

Junkers

 

Journey (Wind Of Italia)

 

Castorp (The Magic Mountain)

 

Naoko (Yearning)

 

Naoko (Crossing Paths)

 

Journey (Dreamland)

 

 

epy9GEs.png

VVEsrfL.png

iHk7ysE.png

NwVI26R.png

ccC0rJ6.png

 

 

P.S.: Here's an interesting article regarding the controversy surrounding the film: http://www.theverge.com/2014/1/23/5337826/the-wind-rises-the-beauty-and-controversy-of-miyazakis-final-film

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Lupin III:  The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)

 

lupin

 

A word of note:  I have not read Jay's or BB's reviews in this thread, so I'm curious where my opinions differ or remain similar.  I will also attempt not to evoke awareness of the movies I have seen when I review these now in order.

 

I have known Hayao Miyazaki for some time and I was extremely eager to have the opportunity not only to watch all of his directorial features but also in chronological order.  It was an exciting prospect and naturally the first movie in that sequence revolved around the manga character Lupin the Third, who is in turn inspired by, and derives his name from, the fictional French character Arsène Lupin, the "gentleman thief".  I am not familiar with the manga, and if I understand correctly this movie is actually the second in the anime series after the first one in 1978.  Based on how this movie is structured it doesn't seem all that necessary to have a serious working knowledge of these characters or the first film.  It's self-contained and the characters don't require "origin" stories, and would be diminished if they did.

 

The tone is set from the outset.  This is going to be a madcap 70s-style misadventure filled with colorful characters.  From this point forward it's just a matter of figuring out what it can get away with and how long the zany hijinks can be sustained without collapsing in on itself or losing focus.

 

I watched the movie twice, once in English and again in the original Japanese with direct translation English subtitles.  There were two scenes that I noticed changed in effectiveness, which I'll mention later.  But the only consistent nuisance was the English dub's insistence in calling the main character "Wolf" instead of "Lupin", which was only a slight irritation as the character's proper name is Lupin.

 

After the crazy opening involving Lupin and his partner in crime, Jigen, I rather enjoyed the credit sequence.  It builds their relationship as longtime friends without them having to say a single word.  It's very effective and all that's needed to establish them as old companions who have been through a lot.  We see a bit more of this later when they're about to be ambushed and they share a mutual understanding of what's about to happen and what they strategy is completely non-verbally.  They sense danger like they're encountered a million times and act quietly and together.

 

During a high-speed car pursuit we are introduced to another main character in Clarisse, the "Bride", who is appropriately fitted in a wedding dress and is being hunted down.  There's a great moment that gives us terrific insight into the Lupin character where he and his friend are chasing after her chasers.  In an attempt to shake them they toss a couple of grenades, the second of which goes off right in Lupin's face.  Their car is damaged but he kicks out the window and a smile peels across his face.  He's an adrenaline junkie and his just found his next fix.  After the race is over and the Clarisse is collected back in sinister hands we find our two thieving friends in the ruin of the long dead Archduke's palace.  This is where the movie succeeds, in my opinion; in these small moments.  It shows us that even though this movie has been shot out of a cannon, it's not without direction.  Miyazaki is able to magnificently balance accelerated scenes with stillness such as when Lupin is wandering the palace grounds.  You can hear the bell tolling in the background and there's an extended pan across the lake that's chilling.  There are sections scattered throughout the movie that are like this that prevent it from being single-geared and bogged down by endless wackiness like when we see Clarisse again, this time in a darkened night-filled room staring out of a window.  Then later in the same scene after she's been left alone among the shadows again.  The camera holds on her.  Wonderful stuff.  Miyazaki is not afraid to tell his story in the best way possible, ad he is able to brilliantly manage the needs of the individual scenes while still making the movie coherent as a whole.

 

Part of the territory when it comes to movies like this is having their universe populated with crazy schemes and countless quaint and lively characters.  The movie is slightly guilty of almost having too much of a good thing.  It goes on for a bit longer than what seems required by the story.  Some characters seem virtually without use and sit idle for most of the movie.  Goemon Ishikawa is a skilled warrior who arrives, is sidelined for the majority of the proceedings, and is then activated for the finale.  In this genre you more or less accept many things, and characters like him, or Fujiko, are only called on when needed.  There is a mystery behind them that is both interesting and frustrating at the same time.  You can sense that they have their own lives outside the confines of the movie.  Fujiko literally has her own subplot that we never actually see, and only comes to the forefront when she crosses Lupin's path or vise versa.  In terms of crazy schemes the only one that I didn't think worked at all was the wedding.  It seemed out of place even in a movie like this.

 

I'm fairly certain at this point that my favorite thing in the movie is the segment where a very determined Lupin is scaling up the side of the castle to the very top of the roof.  It's very deliberately paced with a pulsing beat on the soundtrack.  He's trying trying to get to the north tower by setting up a small rocket that he can fire over in order to suspend a cable to navigate his way to rescue Clarisse.  There is a lot of build up but it pays off when it doesn't quite go according to plan.

 

There's a part where Lupin has been injured and has just come out of a three-day coma when he begins to rush his recovery by stuffing his face with all manner of food.  The comedy of this is handled much better in the English dub.  It actually didn't seem funny at all in the Japanese dub.

 

Minor complaints aside, I had a serious one that was quelled a bit by the Japanese dub with the more direct English subtitle translation.  In the beginning Clarisse seemed at least moderately capable.  She was able to escape her treacherous fiance and his guards and steal a car for her getaway.  Later she becomes the object of Lupin's desire in terms of seeing her rescue as a challenge and as such she assumes the role of damsel in distress.  The direction of her scenes then makes her out to be as isolated and helpless as possible when she becomes Lupin's target.  Her character isn't pursued much beyond this, but the ending is what really annoyed me.  In the English dub she comes off as even more inconsistent and simplified, but also winy and clingy to the point of awkwardness.  There's hardly a moment for her to breathe as she confesses her undying love, devotion, and attachment.  The Japanese dub is entirely different and hugely improved.  There are silences (!) and their dialogue is more appropriate and adult.  It salvaged the ending for me.  She's a different person in this dub.

 

I'll start a new ranking based on only the movies I've seen in this collection overview.  As it stands....

 

1)  Lupin III - The Castle of Cagliostro

 

;)

 

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Excellently-written review, which brings up a lot of good points about the best aspects of the film (and some of its shortcomings).

 

I agree with pretty much everything you said. Well, almost everything. Not sure why you thought the wedding felt out of place. I thought it was well integrated into the story, and ended up giving us one of the best sequences in the film. And Clarisse's "development" (or lack thereof) didn't bother me either. Sure, she managed to escape once, but that doesn't necessarily mean she's a strong independend woman, so to me, it didn't seem like her character suddenly changed when Lupin decided to help her.

 

3 hours ago, nightscape94 said:

I watched the movie twice, once in English and again in the original Japanese with direct translation English subtitles.  There were two scenes that I noticed changed in effectiveness, which I'll mention later.  But the only consistent nuisance was the English dub's insistence in calling the main character "Wolf" instead of "Lupin", which was only a slight irritation as the character's proper name is Lupin.

 

About that: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lupin_III

 

Quote

For several years, issues relating to the copyright of Maurice Leblanc's intellectual property meant that the Lupin name was removed from its releases outside of Japan, usually changed to "Rupan" or "Wolf". However, the copyright has since expired, allowing foreign releases to use the Lupin name.

 

Oh, and kudos to you for watching the film with both the English dub and the Japanese dub. Gave you the opportunity to get a good appreciation of what each version has to offer.

 

3 hours ago, nightscape94 said:

I'll start a new ranking based on only the movies I've seen in this collection overview.  As it stands....

 

1)  Lupin III - The Castle of Cagliostro

 

Not sure I agree with that. I mean, sure, it's a good film, but then... I don't know. That ranking feels off, somehow...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, BloodBoal said:

I agree with pretty much everything you said. Well, almost everything. Not sure why you thought the wedding felt out of place. I thought it was well integrated into the story, and ended up giving us one of the best sequences in the film.

 

By that point I probably would have bought almost anything the movie could throw at me, but it seemed that all the craziness before was at least a natural extension of the action.  In the wedding sequence there's a robotic dummy (?) that they created in less than 24 hours?  Unless they had it in storage!  To me it almost works, but not quite.

 

5 hours ago, BloodBoal said:

And Clarisse's "development" (or lack thereof) didn't bother me either. Sure, she managed to escape once, but that doesn't necessarily mean she's a strong independent woman, so to me, it didn't seem like her character suddenly changed when Lupin decided to help her.

 

It didn't bother me as much during the second viewing.  As I mentioned, the original dub is a vast improvement in keeping her realistic and grounded.  After all, she has been basically imprisoned for an unknown period of time and forced into a soul crushing engagement.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 29/12/2015 at 5:09 PM, nightscape94 said:

By that point I probably would have bought almost anything the movie could throw at me, but it seemed that all the craziness before was at least a natural extension of the action.  In the wedding sequence there's a robotic dummy (?) that they created in less than 24 hours?  Unless they had it in storage!  To me it almost works, but not quite.

 

It's a fuckin' cartoon! "How could they create a robotic dummy in les than 24 hours"? Come on, nightscape! You're worth better than that!

 

A better question would be: how is one supposed to unveil the treasure of the Cagliostro without getting killed? If the person has to climb all the way up to the goat figure at the top of the clock to put the two rings in the two cavities, how could that person avoid getting crushed by the hands of the clock, that immediatly indicate midnight? Hmmm...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, BloodBoal said:

A better question would be: how is one supposed to unveil the treasure of the Cagliostro without getting killed?

 

That actually crossed my mind.  The makers of the clock/dam system automatically assume that the person using the rings are doing so with bad intentions.  Woulda sucked if it had been a well-meaning archeologist.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You must have been watching the Streamline dubbed version.  That dub does rename Lupin "Wolf" but only because they couldn't get the rights to it at the time.

 

The currently existing dub redone by AniMaze is more accurate and acted well, with a then unknown David Hayter turning in a great performance as Lupin, but it's also peppered with a lot of profanity in an attempt to make the movie more "mature" than it actually is.

 

As for where I stand on the rest of the dubs, I don't really have any major problems with them.  They aren't perfect, but they certainly are very well produced.  I may not particularly like The Wind Rises dub, but even then I don't think of it as a truly awful dub.  As for how they compare to the Japanese versions, I really don't care about that.  I feel that the dubs deserve to stand on their own as great entertainments in their own right, and I don't see any reason to compare the two; and to me the original Japanese versions aren't "sooooo much better", and they're not "worse", only different.  Both versions have their own interesting quirks.  Both versions can stand on their own.  There's no reason to put one down over the other.  Having said that I DO prefer the dubs, but I have nothing against the Japanese versions either.  As far as I'm concerned, you can't go wrong with these movies either way.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just remembered this Miyazaki tribute in a Simpsons episode I posted some time ago in the "What is the last television series you watched?" thread, and I thought it'd just repost it in this more appropriate thread (since it went mostly unnoticed in the television series thread anyway):

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Most gorgeous"? Nah, not even close. There are some that are well drawn (1, 2, 16, 21 and especially 13), but the rest is rather meh (or just OK), really. I've seen better ones!

 

Still waiting for your Ponyo review, Mr. LeBlanc!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

 

http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_loln4quagE1qh01r8o1_400.gif

 

This was one of the films to which I was looking forward the most.  I didn't know anything about the story but I've been captivated for a while now by some of the artwork I've seen.  I've also had a peripheral understanding that this is not only a much beloved and highly ranked Miyazaki film, but a decidedly well-reviewed film in a general.

 

Miyazaki's "People Against Nature" theme is in full swing here in what is a tried-and-true story of a character that is prophesied to restore balance to a post-apocalyptic world.  He presents us with an environment that's pretty fully realized and a history that isn't, which is intentional.  There are mysteries and information unknown to our characters and therefore unknown to the viewer.  We have no more knowledge than they have.  After 1,000 years they are left asking rhetorical questions, making guesses about the nature of certain creatures, and culling from old anonymous stories.  Some things just end up being inexplicable, and that's okay.  Initially I did feel detached from the different clans and their plights, but this abated after my second go, benefited in part by the far superior Japanese dub.  Things aren't absolutely perfect with the storytelling (motivations are a bit sketchy or questionable from time to time), and  but they are not a huge distraction.

 

The opening shot(s) quickly establish the devastation caused by a massive global event which sees poisonous fungi covering most of what we see, and encroaching on the rest, as well as the deadly rage-filled insects that protect this "Sea of Decay" (or "Toxic Jungle" as stated in the English dub).  I liked this whole opening sequence as a nameless figure fixed with a gas mask investigates a village ravaged by the fungus which then cuts to Nausicaä traveling the area above in her glider, overseeing the entire landscape.  It's a nice juxtaposition between the intimate close-up view so we get a good look and then the bird's eye view which shows the magnitude and span of the damage.  We gain a lot based solely on the visuals.

 

As for the protagonist herself, she is an intelligent, extremely resourceful, open-minded and quick-thinking young woman.  She exudes leadership and gains the trust of people, even from possible foes, with these qualities.  There is a scene later on where some members of her tribe are in a plane which is slowly descending into the fatal and tangled forest below.  They are panicked and wishing to die quickly.  Nausicaä is flying parallel, removes her gas mask, refocuses them, calms the situation, and gently maneuvers her own plane closer to provide decisive instructions.  It's a particularly poignant sequence.  She is very capable and a pleasure to watch.  Nausicaä is the type of strong and magnetic character that make you go from merely liking a movie to loving it.

 

I enjoyed that she wasn't driving the story.  A temptation with a confident lead is that they are the main thrust or impetus that inspires the next scene.  That is not the case.  She is simply a part of a larger story going on around her, where she is but one piece, incapable of truly seeing the whole board.

 

When we're introduced to her she is searching through the expansive wasteland outside the confines of her tiny village and stumbles upon the dispensed shell of an Ohm, an ancient creature.  This section helps to provide additional scope of the type of beings that inhabit this world, as well as set up and illustrate visually how very indestructible the shells are, as well as suggest many of Nausicaä's traits and skills.  It also shows that she has a conscious level of respect for nature.  Expert sense of direction by Miyazaki here; every piece of information is relevant and nothing is squandered.  There's a great moment of pause during an ensuing chase with a live Ohm where our nameless character from the first scene is in grave danger.  She flies high above, looks down, and remarks "What a magnificent Ohm...".  Even during tense moments there is admiration and wonder towards nature.  When she is revealed to be a princess it is done in a rather nonchalant way while she's fixing a windmill.  It's said almost in passing.  She is this by blood, it is not her defining quality.

 

Nausicaä is able to save our nameless character who turns out to be a very well-known traveler named Lord Yupa, a friend of her father, the King.  They go back to her village which is a tranquil haven, mostly protected by the noxious spores due to the wind pouring into the valley off of a nearby sea.

 

The purpose of this seemingly terrible ecosystem is discovered after she accidentally happens upon a serenely colored fossilized forest hidden below the jungle.  This section highlights one of my favorite things about Miyazaki so far, which are held shots.  In this case there are a couple occasions where sand falls through openings in the forest floor and he allows the shot to continue uninterrupted, the characters looking on.  Or in how Nausicaä marvels at the trees, resting her head against them.  On a related note, there is also a wonderful moment when she fears for her father's life and she runs to help.  This could have easily been animated as a jump cut to show her start to run with the next shot having her show up inside the castle.  In this movie we see her run the entire way from the field, all the way up the steps, through the castle interior, and then finally burst into her father's chamber.  This detail is not unimportant.

 

Some tidbits on the different dubs:  There is one scene where the English dub and the Japanese dub make different distinctions.  Nausicaä has allowed her rage to overflow and she attacks a group of soldiers that have invaded her village and who have committed a dreadful act.  Later, when she sees Lord Yupa she says this:

 

Japanese: "I don't know what my rage will make me do.  I don't want to kill anyone."

English: "I had no idea my rage could drive me to kill.  It has to stop."

 

These are actually two very different things.  The first implies she doesn't exactly know the the boundaries of her rage and fears how far she will go if left unfettered, and the second implies that she actually killed the soldiers and she demands of herself to stop.  This facet of her personality is supposed to mirror the blind insect rage she has encountered during her adventures so I feel the literal reading from the original Japanese prevents a gratuitous blemish.  Additionally, in a scene where a fable is being recounted, foretelling the coming of a savior, the Japanese dub (at least the translation of it) does not reflect any gender about this figure, despite the fact that the visual representation is most definitely male.  However, the story itself is open.  In the English dub they take out the ambiguity by explicitly referring to the savior as a man.  This alters your perception a bit since the gender of the hero then becomes a story device, which seems like an unnecessary distraction.  Again, I prefer the Japanese.

 

Joe Hisaishi provides his first score for Miyazaki.  Aside from the main theme, which is lovely, and a little humming tune that is used within the story, the rest is pretty forgettable.  It more or less works, but much of it sounds very dated when modern instruments and styles were utilized.

 

As for my updated ranking, despite my affection for Lupin I have to give the upper hand to Nausicaä.  Miyazaki takes a very standard story, which is maybe a bit too obscure, and populates his universe with a magnanimous principal character and peppers it with awesome environments, nice small touches, and great color and animation.

 

1) Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

2) Lupin III:  The Castle of Cagliostro

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Indeed, his reviews are excellently-written (so far!)... which makes it really hard to make comments about them! Especially since, once again, I agree with (almost) everything he says!

 

He also brings up some really good points I didn't particularly paid attention to during my first viewing (but will do during my second one ;)).

 

What did you think of the ending, nightscape? Did you think it was satisfying overall, or do you think more could have been shown/told?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the feedback guys!

 

As for the ending, well it sort of just...ends, doesn't it?  The transition wasn't all that smooth after the big finale, so it certainly felt a tad clunky going into the credits.  Given the scale of the story I was hoping for a bit more, but I guess Miyazaki felt he said everything he wanted to say without being too dogmatic about the outcome between nature and humans (was there a truce?), and the new relationship between the tribes (do they all live in the Valley of the Wind now?) . 

 

There was animation through the credits but I would have preferred a little narrated epilogue or something.  He had that short opening text, maybe he could have closed in a similar way.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 minutes ago, nightscape94 said:

Point taken. :blush2:

 

He, I wasn't mocking you. I agree that the ending  could have been handled better.

 

16 minutes ago, nightscape94 said:

What did you think of the secondary characters?

 

Not much, to be honest. Most of them were not developed enough (which was one of my problems with the film), like Asbel for example. I wish the film had been slightly longer, in that regard.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, Asbel seemed to be there only to introduce the existence of another clan and to give Nausicaä a reason to talk out loud during the hidden forest scene.  Outside of that one sequence he didn't have much to contribute.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Jason Michael Paul (producer of the Zelda Symphony and other video game music concerts) mentioned during an interview the possibility of a Live-to-Projection Spirited Away concert at some point in the future: http://blipico.com/jason-michael-paul-interview-2015/

 

Quote

Jason: So I’ll tell you, one of the projects I have considered doing would be Spirited Away by Miyazaki. I thought it’d be really cool to do a film orchestra concert with that.

 

Nikolas: Just from that single film?

 

Jason: That film. From beginning to end with live orchestra. I think it’d be really cool to do it in like a concert hall. Because you’re gonna go to see a movie anyways, just imagine a live soundtrack.

 

Nikolas: And would you have move playing at the same time?

 

Jason: Yeah, It’d be on like on a similar sized screen with the movie from beginning to end with a live soundtrack.

 

Nikolas: Have you ever talked with Joe Hisaishi, the composer?

 

Jason: I have someone very close to him from when I was in Tokyo. I pitched the idea. But not just Spirited Away. I wanted to do some of the other newer releases that he’s come up with Studio Ghibli.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986)

 

laputa3

 

This film is a clear thematic extension of the material in Nausicaä.  It takes it one step further, which is interesting, since there appears to be some continuity between the two, with Castle in the Sky proceeding the events of the other.  As a result, Miyazaki seems pessimistic if at least hopeful about our future.  He obviously appreciates science and technology, but fears completely unfettered advances without restraint and respect of each other and of our surrounding environment.

 

The action gets going quickly as pirates infiltrate a massive luxury airship.  Their intentions are unknown but we meet several characters we'll be sticking with for the rest of the movie, including a young girl about 13 years old.  Miyazaki once against shows us the importance of character development through setup and action as she knocks out her adult travel companion with a wine bottle as he's sending out a distress message.  We get the impression that this is more of a cell, and she is willing to risk her life to breakout, climbing out of the window with darkness and death looming below.  We see her with a mysterious carved stone and the pirate's mission also becomes obvious.  They want it.  Desperately. Before they are able to grab her she falls into the clouds and we cut to the title sequence.

 

Miyazaki certainly doesn't like to waste a good opportunity, or a good title sequence, and we are offered a glimpse of human history and the advances of aviation through to its apex as several islands of earth are seen floating effortlessly through the air along with the dizzying acrobatics of smaller ships.  Everything resets as the developing headway of mankind crashes to earth quite literally.   It is all stylistically animated in an old-fashion way, set to a beautiful tune from Joe Hisaishi.  A nice touch is when the credits segue back to the movie and the music lingers smoothly through it.  It's a nice gentle transition and serves to connect the history, to which we were just introduced, to existing reality.

 

We are then introduced to our second primary character, Pazu.  Energetic, good-natured, and also hiding a painful past.  Both he and the girl, now known as Sheeta, are made acquainted.   They share an understanding of each other and are immediately inseparable.  This is where we learn about Laputa, a mystical island that floats in the sky.  Pazu's father had seen it, and it's a part of Sheeta's heritage in a more direct way that she will disclose later.  But the temptation of seeing or reaching it are evident.  Finding it is their new mission together.  Sheeta's attempt at hiding and blending in are thwarted as she is spotted by the pirate clan, and we are treated to a Cagliostro style romp of a fight between them and Pazu's boss, and eventually the entire town.  This leads into a neat and zany sequence in that same vein with Dora, the pirate's domineering den mother, behind the wheel of an automobile chasing down a coal-burning locomotive on the tracks.  All of this helps illustrate the resourcefulness of the children, especially Pazu, and shows what skills they've had acquire living on their own.  It's also a lot of fun, which is a nice break given the more serious tone on the horizon.

 

The children are eventually taken by Muska, a government agent, whose intentions for Laputa and its secrets are militaristic and sinister.  The island in the sky isn't the all-enchanting withdrawal from reality that the kids hoped.

 

I liked the way the act breaks all ended with increased levels of destruction.  The train bridge, the army stronghold, and the island along with its world-dominating weapon.  Seemed appropriate that as they got closer to the truth that the repercussions of that insight would grow exponentially given the nature of the Laputans.

 

Castle in the Sky contains two main metaphors.  The Earth represents home and the Sky represents the dream of escape.  The sky is very much a part of the story as a character.  It's a striking blue when the children wake up and meet each other for the first time, wide-eyed and innocent, full of life.  Ominous and threatening after they're kidnapped by the army.  The clouds at any time are boisterous and lively or swollen with storm and rage depending on the setting and mood.  There is a reflective moment after both the children join up with the pirates when Pazu and Sheeta look down at the daylit earth through white clouds, almost tranquilly appearing to dream as though they were on Laputa, triumphantly staring back down on an old forgettable life.  There is another one of these later when the children are on the pirate ship on lookout duty, huddled under a blanket, glaring out on the cold night sky, and the music cues up.  The idea of Laputa binds them together.  It is the driving force to get far ahead of their lives.  Laputa is detachment from one's past.

 

This movie is also full of imagery of tiny objects set against large backgrounds, be it aircraft or people, culminating in an ending where Sheeta and Pazu are gliding away from Laputa, back to earth, until it becomes a speck against a heavenly blue sky.  It's a wonderfully elegant analogy to finalize their journey.  Miyazaki sees an inevitable path of self-destruction due to our tribal impulses to conquer at the expense of harmony.  Pazu never forgets his father.  Sheeta never forgets her mother.  The people of Laputa had forgotten the earth.  "Its power is the stuff of humanity's dreams" says Muska.  He's misinterpreted what Laputa represents in the grand scheme of human history, and because of this, the cycle is likely to continue when people with power dream untethered to reality, leading to arrogance, and ultimately defiance of earthly kinship.

 

What this lesson is for Sheeta and Pazu is a bit less lumbering:  Chase the dream, that's how we get flying machines, but don't run so far away that you forget who you are and where you come from.

 

Japanese/English Dubs:

The English dub isn't bad, but I will say that while James Van Der Beek and Anna Paquin do an admirable job, they both seem miscast as they are not child-like enough. 

 

Overall, however, I had the same essential issues with English dub on this film as I had with Nausicaä, just not to the same high degree.  The English language version still has a tendency to over-simplify as well as insert unnecessary added dialogue when the camera pans away from the characters, which is to compensate for something that wasn't missing to begin with.  Miyazaki's script here is fine-tuned.  There is some connecting tissue that was unfortunately removed, as when Pazu's boss refers to the mining equipment as "old clunker" on a couple of occasions.  This language gives us some insight to the boss's relationship with the job.  I know that seems basic, but it's there for a reason.  Or when Pazu says "My head's harder than my boss's fist."  In the English version he says something similar, but then the second callback in the Japanese version when Muska refers to Pazu by saying "His stubborn head is harder than mine" is gone from the English version.  There just seems to be a lack of acknowledgement as to why Miyazaki writes this way.  This isn't abnormal in screenplays, to have a balance in the dialogue.

 

There are some unnecessary changes to character development, as when the kids are on that train and Pazu leaves the engine room, handing over the task of coal shoveling to Sheeta.  Once they're in the clear he comes back and says "I'll do it" and she response "No, let me."  In the English she responds "You were amazing!".  This strange oblivious change detracts from any involvement Sheeta had in the scene and puts the focus back on Pazu being the sole hero.

 

There was a reference to Gulliver's Travels in the Japanese version when they talk about Laputa which is missing in the English dub.  This is a spectacularly huge mistake.  Not only is this an explicit nod to the island's namesake from literature, but because of it there is a connection with this movie's history and our own, giving certain actions and philosophy real weight and consequence.  Otherwise it becomes mere fantasy.  If you remove this allusion then you take away the importance of the message in a small way.  This is our future...

 

When they have a conversation about their childhood, Sheeta states very succinctly in the Japanese dub, "Both my parents died, but they left me the house and the fields, so I was getting by alone."  It then cuts to her isolated in the quiet of the countryside only to see men walking toward her in the distance.  We already have an idea of what is going to happen, and both she and Pazu are already on the same page when continues her story after it cuts back to present day.   In the English, her story starts "I used to live there with my parents and we were very happy."  That by itself is a bit off and sets a different tone, but then Sheeta continues to explain what happened during the entire flashback.  That solitary and frightening moment now slightly tarnished by the nonstop exposition.  Miyazaki uses as few words as needed, and the English dub goes down the path of "Let me spell that all out for you."

 

There is no mention of "The Dragon's Lair" in the English dub.  Another mistake.  The characters in Castle in the Sky, as in Nausicaä, have stories, lore, oral traditions.  They don't know quite what they mean when they say it, but when you have that phrase running through your imagination and then finally see it on screen, the absence of it cheapens the mythology.

 

Perhaps I'm being overly critical and obsessive.  I understand the difficulty of translating Japanese dialogue into English so it both communicates the story while simultaneously fitting the existing animation.  I get it.  Not all of these things are huge distractions, and certainly not all of them are disastrous to the fabric of the story, but it shows how even a minute change to the structure of the dialogue can alter the storytelling for better or worse.  The poetry of Miyazaki's carefully chosen words are dampened.  I understand much better the fuss that came from fans regarding dubtitling.

 

I did get a certain satisfaction from Muska, as voiced by Mark Hamill, saying "How appropriate we ended up in the throne room."

 

Okay, so there's also one thing I have to talk about that's a bit awkward.  It's never made clear whether some, all, or any of the pirates are actually Dora's biological children, my impression is that they were all like Pazu once, orphans taken in by Dora and her husband, put to work, and slowly indoctrinated and fashioned into pirates.  Regardless, Dora compares Sheeta to a younger version of herself, and her sons take note of this.  Later, there is a sequence where Sheeta has changed into Dora's clothes.  She is then fawned over by all of Dora's children in a rather overt way.  Not only are these are adult men professing their love for a just-burgeoning young girl, but there's a bit of Oedipus complex thrown in for good measure.  Now that I've gotten that out of way...

 

Little Touches:

- Pazu is about to catch Sheeta.  She is almost within his reach when he realizes he's still holding a pale.  He puts it down and then resumes his catching position just in time.

- Pazu doesn't quite know how to fasten a necklace

- Pazu loses his balance after tripping two adults

- The sound of the wooden bridge collapsing; not in an explosion of sound, but a slow splintering disintegration

- Goliath emerging from the clouds like a predatory shark surfacing from the ocean

- Sheeta brushing one of her pigtails back as she tries to loosen the rope she tied around herself and Pazu

- Pazu takes of his shoes off to get better traction
- Pazu forgets the already-dispensed shotgun shell and has to reload

- Fox-squirrels!

 

Miyazaki continues to hone his storytelling, artistic eye, and direction in a splendidly crafted movie with great set pieces, authentic characters, and an important message without being too didactic.  There is still mystery and unanswered questions at the end, but that works in the film's favor, as it did with Nausicaä, but this movie felt more complete.  You are left wondering, and that's the beauty of Castle in the Sky.

 

1) Castle in the Sky

2) Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

3) Lupin III:  The Castle of Cagliostro

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now