Categories
Animation Features Movies

Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi, 千と千尋の神隠し)

Director – Hayao Miyazaki – 2001 – Japan – Cert. PG – 125m

A shorter version of this review was originally published in Third Way for UK release date 12/09/2002. At which point, hardly anyone in the UK outside of anime fandom knew who Miyazaki was.

In director Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, a ten-year-old girl must survive a bathhouse run by demons after her parents are turned into pigs – now showing on Netflix (subtitled / dubbed) and can also be seen in the Anime season April / May 2022 at BFI Southbank (subtitled / dubbed for family screenings)

To discover the films of Hayao Miyazaki – and those of his company Studio Ghibli (pronounced “Jib-Lee”) – is like suddenly being exposed to those of Disney without prior knowledge of their sheer number or quality. In Miyazaki’s native Japan, Spirited Away shattered box office records to succeed Titanic as the most lucrative movie of all time. In the US, it won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature while making only modest inroads into the marketplace. Britain, however, is not the US and it may well fare better here than it did there.

Previous Miyazaki outings have covered children’s experience of the countryside (My Neighbour Totoro, 1988; one of this writer’s favourite films of all time), a young girl’s learning to find her way in the world (Kiki’s Delivery Service, 1989) and conflicting loyalties among pilots in interwar Europe (Porco Rosso, 1992).… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Villain (Akunin, 悪人)

Director – Lee Sang-il – 2010 – Japan – Cert.15 – 140m

*****

Unrequited love, a murder mystery and two lovers on the run – UK DVD release date 05/12/2011

This remarkable Japanese movie (which picked up 15 Japanese Oscars and won five) has stayed with and haunted me since its UK theatrical release last year. At once a crime thriller and a romantic drama, it’s a tale of love requited and otherwise, of petty callousness, goodness and evil. Its tale of two fugitive lovers throws into question the morality of its two secondary leads – a murdered girl and her murder suspect. As the trailer asks, who is the real villain?

Construction worker Yuichi (Satoshi TsumabukiShape Of Red, Yukiko Mishima, 2020) dutifully lives with and cares for his elderly grandparents in a mundane fishing village. Burning the candle at both ends, he drives his fast, flashy car into the city to see office worker Yoshino (Hikari MitsushimaLove Exposure, Sion Sono, 2008), the girl he met on an internet dating site. But she is only using him for sex, setting her sights instead on disinterested, rich college kid Masuo (Masaki Okada), climbing into his car when opportunity presents itself within eyesight of Yuichi – who follows the car.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Departures (Okuribito, おくりびと)

Director – Yojiro Takita – 2008 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 130m

*****

An unemployed cellist finds himself working on the encoffination of corpses prior to their cremation – in cinemas Friday, December 4th 2009

Winner of 2009’s Best Foreign Film Oscar (and numerous other awards besides), this Japanese entry is a rarity in that it deals head on with death not in its horrific or violent aspects (as in numerous horror and action movies) but in a life ritual as significant as birth. Death being the last great contemporary Western taboo, we in the West ought to pay attention.

Daigo (Masahiro Motokii Gemini, Shinya Tsukamoto, 1999) loses his new job as a cellist when the Tokyo orchestra employing him is dissolved, leaving him with a young wife to support and repayments on an expensive cello to find. Selling the instrument, the couple move back to his small home town where Daigo’s late mother has left him a house in her will.

Seeking work, he answers an ad dealing with ‘departures’, believing it a travel agency. The ad should however have read ‘the departed’, because he’s required to deal with the encoffination of corpses prior to their cremation, preparing the bodies for entry into the next life.… Read the rest