Although not the sole director at Japan’s Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki is the most prolific, and the author of the animation studio’s most popular works, including Kiki’s Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Academy Award winner Spirited Away. In addition, the face of his creation Totoro became the Ghibli production logo.
My Neighbor Totoro (Tonari no Totoro), first released in 1988, was a moderate success in its original run but became a huge domestic after subsequent TV airings. Many of you already familiar with the film in English will have seen a translated version from 1993, but since then the Walt Disney studio has made a deal to handle distribution of Studio Ghibli films in this market. Talk about joining forces.
With its new translation of Totoro, Disney has taken the time to cast and direct great performers. Rather than re-brand the humor or rewrite the jokes, this version seems to preserve the beautiful comedy and pathos of Miyazaki’s original work. Continue reading →
Following the cult success of his time-travel drama Primer, writer/director/star Shane Carruth now reaches further into the cosmos for Upstream Color, a speculative tale that invites interpretation but resists explanation. Dealing in altered perception and mysterious invasions, the movie weaves strange patterns in time and space, leaving its own sense of reality open to doubt. It has the surreal quality of a bad dream, but its examinations of control, manipulation, fear, grief and love ring true. A fanciful premise does not prevent the film from resonating powerfully in a real-world context.
This is the sort of film of which any discussion is a tricky prospect, as the advancement of the story depends on details that a critic should probably not reveal. Upstream Color is the story of a bizarre life cycle, which inhabits and thereby connects a series of everyday organisms with no apparent relation. But is it truly a parasite that forges links between its various hosts, or does Carruth mean to reveal a network of abstract, mostly invisible connections that already exist at nature’s fundamental level? In either case, the unexpected interplay between minds and souls throughout Upstream Color is both moving and terrifying. Scientific and metaphysical ambiguity form a large part of this movie’s appeal, so those in search of a concrete solution are sure to be frustrated. For those who like to question, interpret, and puzzle over the meaning of a story, this is a film of rare and unique beauty. Continue reading →
Spectacular. Stunning. Tantalizing. Everything in the wide world but compelling
Had Baz Luhrmann been alive and working in the Roaring 20s, he certainly could and should have been employed as Jay Gatsby’s party planner. The Australian director’s penchant for lavish, baroque, balls-out spectacle is a matter of record thanks to his most popular film, Moulin Rouge. However, he cannot be trusted when it comes to reining in the subtleties and fine details of plain dramatic storytelling. Continue reading →