HOME |  CULT MOVIES | COMPETITIONS | ADVERTISE |  CONTACT US |  ABOUT US
 
 
Newest Reviews
Elvis: That's the Way It Is
Man Who Laughs, The
Watch List
Giraffe
Kat and the Band
Echo
Perfect 10
Octaman
Red Penguins
China Syndrome, The
Babyteeth
Round-Up, The
Around the Sun
Once There Was Brasilia
Peripheral
Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street
Ice
She Demons
Good Girls, The
Hail, Hero!
Faces in the Crowd
Tamango
Traitor, The
Tomorrow
Third Generation, The
Saxon Charm, The
Spy Intervention
Moonrise
Mulan
Killer with a Thousand Eyes, The
Vigil, The
Liberation of L.B. Jones, The
Wizard of Baghdad, The
Ride
Good Manners
Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo
Sweet Home
Big Score, The
Siddhartha
Three Outlaw Samurai
   
 
Newest Articles
For God's Sake Strap Yourselves Down: Flash Gordon on 4K UHD Collector's Edition
Party Hard: Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure on Blu-ray
Network On Air: Nights in with ABC 2 - Your Faces are All Blurred!
Eve Knew Her Apples: The Lady Eve on Blu-ray
Network On Air: Tempo - Gallery One
Network On Air: Nights In with ABC 1 - Welcome Once Again to Manchester!
Transformative Apocalypses: Phase IV and Southland Tales
The Happiest Days of Their Lives: The Guinea Pig on Blu-ray
Faced Poe: Three Edgar Allan Poe Adaptations Starring Bela Lugosi on Blu-ray
Hard Luck, Buster: The Cameraman on Blu-ray
At the Hop: Mr. Vampire on Blu-ray
Divine Madness: Female Trouble on Blu-ray
Country Matters: Further Out of Town on Blu-ray
Bat-Damn: Was Joel Schumacher's Batman Really That Bad?
The Beat Goes On: Takeshi Kitano Collection on Blu-ray
Dream Treats: Scorsese Shorts on Blu-ray
It's Only Money: Laughter in Paradise on Blu-ray
A Regular Terpsichore: Dance, Girl, Dance on Blu-ray
Teenage Trauma: Baby Love on Blu-ray
The Happening: Pet Shop Boys It Couldn't Happen Here on Blu-ray
Who Watched The Watchmen?
The Golden Age of Colonic Irrigation: Monty Python Series 4 on Blu-ray
Lady of Pleasure: Lola Montes on Blu-ray
Take You to the Gay Bar: Funeral Parade of Roses on Blu-ray
Hit for Ms: Mark Cousins' Women Make Film on Blu-ray
   
 
  Tale of Princess Kaguya, The Fly Me to the Moon
Year: 2013
Director: Isao Takahata
Stars: Chloë Grace Moretz, Aki Asakura, James Caan, Kengo Kora, Mary Steenburgen, Takeo Chii, Darren Criss, Lucy Liu, Beau Bridges, James Marsden, Oliver Platt, Hynden Walch, Dean Cain, Daniel Dae Kim, George Segal, John Cho, Emily Bridges
Genre: Drama, Animated, Historical, Fantasy, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  9 (from 1 vote)
Review: Once upon a time in feudal Japan, a humble bamboo cutter (voiced in the English dub by James Caan) cuts a tree to find a tiny, glowing, fairy princess inside! He brings her home to his wife (Mary Steenburgen) and to their amazement the princess grows magically from infant to toddler in the blink of an eye. So the bamboo cutter and his wife raise the child as their own. In time she matures into a beautiful girl who comes to be known as Kaguya (Chloë Grace Moretz). A happy, free-spirited girl who loves living in the country among flowers, trees and animals and playing with her young friends, in particular kindly Sutemaru (Glee's Darren Criss). Then one day the bamboo cutter finds another magical tree bearing gifts. This time, a pile of gold and streams of fine silken kimonos. To the old man's way of thinking this is a sign that Heaven wants him to take Kaguya to the city to lead the life of a true princess: cultured, refined and courted by the most eligible royal suitors in the land.

But is that necessarily what Kaguya wants? While the Oscar for Best Animated Film of 2014 went to Big Hero 6, an elaborate anime pastiche from Disney, many felt the worthier contender was a real Japanese animation with a moral message ironically not far removed from those Disney fairy tales of the past. Often a more experimental stylist than Studio Ghibli colleague Hayao Miyazaki, veteran animator Isao Takahata here delivers one of the most eloquent, beautiful and lyrical films produced by Japan's most famous anime studio. The Tale of Princess Kaguya is based on a folk tale widely known throughout Japan and previously adapted as the live action Princess from the Moon (1987), an unlikely science fiction extravaganza from Kon Ichikawa starring Toshirô Mifune as the bamboo cutter.

Spinning a deceptively simple story, Takahata fashions a film that although distinctly Japanese in style, structurally evokes the naturalism of Disney's Bambi (1942). He devotes the first third entirely to Kaguya learning how to interact with her environment. Under Sutemaru's patient tutelage she learns how to carve wood and live off the land. A love of nature infuses the entire film as Takahata takes time to convey the simple joys of watching flowers bloom, animals move or savouring a juicy slice of melon. Through the artistry of Ghibli's gifted animators a story almost totally free of conventional drama proves wholly compelling from start to finish. What follows after the first act is a meditation on the true nature of happiness. Kaguya's well-intentioned yet foolish father gets carried away with the idea of raising a 'princess.' He comes to believe his duty is to surround Kaguya in finery and prosperity yet in doing so turns his bright, boisterous daughter into a bird in a gilded cage. At first, like any little girl, Kaguya delights in her big house and fancy clothes while stern tutor Lady Sagami (Lucy Liu) struggles to mould her into a proper young lady.

Takahata tweaks the traditional tale into the story of a spirited iconoclast in a society infamous for quashing individualism. In a break from convention that is genuinely amusing, Kaguya masters the finer points of courtly etiquette (music, calligraphy, behaviour) both easily and rapidly yet to the consternation of Lady Sagami chooses to remain a defiant free spirit. She refuses to pluck her eyebrows, blacken her teeth, refrain from laughter or do any of those things that reflect 'proper' behaviour for a Japanese princess. With skill and a subtlety that keeps Kaguya from becoming as an anachronistic as the feisty feminist heroines of Disney's films of the Nineties, Takahata questions the role of women in feudal Japan as decorative objects forced to conform to fantasies projected by men, a notion that still lingers today. Inevitably given the pressures of society and family Kaguya is forced to compromise yet grows increasingly disenchanted with the falseness of courtly life and, more troublingly, comes to despise herself as a 'fake.'

Unwilling to marry Kaguya sets five arrogant suitors: Prince Ishitsukuri (James Marsden), Lord Minister Abe (Oliver Platt), Great Counselor Otomo (Lost's Daniel Dae Kim), Prince Kuramochi (Beau Bridges) and Counselor Isonokami (John Cho) the impossible task of retrieving the fabled treasures to which they compare her beauty. Unlike Ichikawa's film, The Tale of Princess Kaguya rather ingeniously balances this traditionally sluggish segment of the fairy tale between comedy. Kaguya deftly outwits their attempts to fool her with manufactured trinkets yet still endures heartbreak when Ishitsukuri's declaration of true love rings false. Takahata wisely keeps Kaguya as the focal point as she tries to reconnect with nature yet because of her noble birth finds life's simple pleasures out of reach.

An all star cast headline an English dub of high quality supervised by respected producer-director Frank Marshall. Purists will want to check out the original Japanese version first where Aki Asakura is quite excellent as Kaguya. On a visual level the film serves up spellbinding, sumptuous images that evoke old storybooks and folk art. Takahata uses subtle shifts in colour and technique to devastating emotional effect and delivers a flying sequence as magical as the best Miyazaki only with an achingly sad punchline. The film climaxes with a spectacular and surreal set-piece laced with a poetic melancholy though, to Takahata's credit, he once again alters the traditional finale so Kaguya delivers a spirited defense of the flawed yet wondrous earthly life.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

This review has been viewed 1575 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film

 
Review Comments (0)


Untitled 1

Login
  Username:
 
  Password:
 
   
 
Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.
   

Latest Poll
Which star is the best at shouting?
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Brian Blessed
Tiffany Haddish
Steve Carell
Olivia Colman
Captain Caveman
Sylvester Stallone
Gerard Butler
Samuel L. Jackson
Bipasha Basu
   
 
   

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Paul Smith
Darren Jones
Andrew Pragasam
  Lee Fiveash
  Mick Stewart
Enoch Sneed
  Dsfgsdfg Dsgdsgsdg
   

 

Last Updated: