Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.
This is the first time I’ve seen this, a very simple and striking poster for the American release of the latest masterpiece by one of the true treasures of world cinema, Hayao Miyazaki.
This is playing LA soon, and I’ll be there with bells on. In the meantime, I’ll have to content myself with this review of the DVD that’s just been released overseas. Damn you, Knowles, and your new all-region player...
I just received Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi on Standard Edition DVD in the mail from a very reliable Internet retailer CD Japan (www.cdjapan.co.jp), officially known as Spirited Away, and after having finally seen the movie after waiting for a year, I must say it's one of the most extraordinary and visually stunning films ever committed to film, animated or not. It's a a real work of art inasmuch Disney's Pinocchio, The Iron Giant and Miyazaki's previous feature Princess Mononoke.
I won't give away the details as you will most likely be pleasantly surprised when you start watching knowing only the basic premise of the plot and with neutral or low expectation, and the movie turns out to be astonishing in terms of visceral and emotional experience (like it did for me when I saw The Seven Samurai, Dancer in the Dark, A.I. and Japanese version of The Ring). Afterwards you enjoy the movie so much you recommend the movie to family and friends with the enthusiasm and vigor of word of mouth just like The Godfather, Star Wars, Jaws, The Ring (in Asian countries at least), The Blair Witch Project and countless others that rose from obscurity to international success stories because of the advertisement magic which Roger Ebert coined: "word of mouth money can't buy."
If there's a description that fits the movie's compelling but wonderfully strange plot, it would be the Japanese variation of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Maurice Sandick's Where the Wild Things Are, Dr. Seuss' Oh, the Places You'll Go and the works of the Brothers Grimm, Roald Dahl and Shel Silverstein mixed with Japanese cultural traditions, folklore and mythology. It never ends there. Spirited Away is subject to each individual's interpretation, so it should be enjoyed by those willing to accept the movie on the basis of fantasy instead of dismissing the film with prejudice just because you don't understand what the hell is going on or you don't like Japanese animation for any reason like the commonly complained-about "jerky style".
The transfer is of top quality, although I noticed "red tint" which I had to adjust tinting for the satisfactory picture. Sen to Chihiro DVD comes with the optional and adequately translated English and French subtitling plus Japanese subtitles. The movie has Dolby Digital 2.0 in Japanese and French audio track. Japanese DTS-ES soundtrack rocked! The DVD comes with Disc One containing the movie, audio selection, chapter selection and Disc Two has supplements such as storyboards, trailers & TV spots and a trailer for Ghibli's new film Neko no Ongaeshi, which looks like a spin-off of Miyazaki-scripted Whisper of the Heart which I also immensely enjoyed, and that film is an excellent companion to Spirited Away as these films share the same premise of a young girl in the quest for self-determination through the imaginatory world. The Japanese DVD of Sen to Chihiro is, as you already know, only plays in region 2 so it should play fine on all-region DVD players (I played the R2 DVD on a modified PlayStation 2 - take that, SXXY). There are at least two additional editions - Collector's Edition and DVD Player bundle - but they're damn hard to find so they should pop up on eBay by now.
Miyazaki has made a masterpiece that stimulates your imagination with the pretension of child-like wonder in a sort of self-awareness. Reasonably intelligent children (the ones who love active life with vivid imagination), adolescents and adults without the condition of prejudice against quality Japanese animation will love the film for its array of humanistic and bizarre character development, surprising twists and fascinating vision of dream-or-reality world like Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon before it. Jaded movie critics and clueless/joyless/idiot moviegoers don't have to like or care for the movie since they're too self-absorbed to let go of their ignorance and prejudice. Unless you have the fond memory of Disney's Alice in Wonderland and have enjoyed children's literacy masterpieces mentioned above, you might not enjoy the film because it's too weird for your taste so don't bother unless you're curious and open-minded with the enthusiasm for anything entertaining and imaginative even if you may not understand what's going on.
One thing though: watch out for Miyazaki's homage to the world-renowned director of Toy Story 1 & 2 John Lasseter's Luxo Jr. the hopping lamp. It's amazingly sublime considering Lessenter and Miyazaki have known each other since the mid-80's and Lessenter had written a note of praise in the 12-disc Ghibli ga Ippai compilation laserdisc box set which I own as an admittedly die-hard Miyazaki fan.
The English dub of Spirited Away from Walt Disney Pictures under the distributing subsidiary Buena Vista Pictures (the company that brought you David Lynch's G-rated masterpiece The Straight Story, this year's underrated gem The Rookie, animated films and assorted bad live-action kiddie garbage), with creative input from Lessenter, will bow in North American theatres this September 20 and is given a PG rating for "some scary moments" from the MPAA. I hope it will come with DTS-ES for DTS-equipped theatres - like I said, DTS rock. The commercial appeal of Spirited Away in North America is yet to be questioned whether it will be minimally, moderately or wildly successful. Its success depend on good marketing and enthusiastically positive word of mouth. The success of Lilo & Stitch makes traditional animation at Disney a clinch, so in this case Spirited Away will be moderately successful whereas Princess Mononoke barely made a dent in the late 1999 North America release (until second life on video, perhaps).
Princess Mononoke is still my favorite Miyazaki film, with Spirited Away second. Spirited Away truly deserves the Golden Bear award at Berlin Film Festival. Hayao Miyazaki most definitely will be a household name that ordinary movie fans and movie-going parents who take their kids to animated movies might recognize his name alongside Walt Disney, the Fleischer brothers, William Hanna & Joseph Barbera, Matt Groening, Tex Avery, Brad Bird and Chuck Jones in North America by the time Miyazaki's ninth and (hopefully) final animated feature film arrive in 2004 or '05.
Father Death Resurrected
Very nice review, FDR, especially considering English isn’t your first language. Heck, you seem to understand it more than Knowles. All I know is I’m dying to see this film now. YOU HEAR ME?! RIGHT NOW!!!