Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Howl's Moving Castle (Hayao Miyazaki)

Miyazaki's films obliterate the conventions of children's animation by their refusal to supply heroes and villains and their reluctance to follow a heavily plotted narrative. Howl's Moving Castle may be the most confusing, tangential, and illogical of the Miyazaki films I've seen, but that illogic has a weird cohesion that takes us along if we let it. Some critics have complained that children won't be able to follow this movie, but I think some adults have a harder time accepting fractured narratives and ambiguous characters than children. Why criticize someone for not treating kids like idiots? Instead, he's given children and adults a beautiful, detailed, visually expressive fantasy about a giant, magic castle that walks, a fire demon forced into indentured servitude, an ennui-filled wizard, and a young girl turned into an elderly woman by the massively overweight Witch of the Waste, who is carried around in a coach by oily, amorphous blobs wearing frightening masks. All these characters are flawed, complex beings and so is the movie.

2 comments:

Krouchdog said...

I haven't seen this movie yet, but I loved Jonathon Rosenbaum's review of it. He makes the point that the film has made $192 million in Japan and that most Hollywood "industry" people think that it is too complex for American children, but obviously the $192 million in Japan wasn't only from adults going to the theater. I think that this perfectly illustrates the attitude that those Hollywood folks have toward American audiences. I guess that I feel that Myazaki is an artist and the clowns that make kids movies in the U.S. obviously are not. Myazaki makes movies that can make people of any age feel very complex emotions, while Disney and the rest of the big animation studios are still making melodramas with pop culture references so that they can say that the films are funny to adults. Instead of jokes about "American Idol" how about themes of depth about loneliness, death, the hardships of doing the right thing, the corruption of power, and the fact that no one is ever completely right or completely wrong.

kristykay said...

We saw the subtitled version of this, which is really what I prefer, but there is also an All-Star American Dubbed version. I'd be interested to see if they plug in a bunch of pop culture references into the American version -- I could especially see Billy Crystal's fire demon doing this. And would they translate it all pretty straightly, or try to cram more of a narrative onto it through the dialogue....

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