Sunday, December 13, 2009
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Very few living directors can convey such a sense of wonder in film as Hayao Miyazaki. Having never given up on hand drawn animation, the Japanese genius comes up with things you can only try to imagine.
Every frame in his movies is filled with a delicate, exciting balance and every element is a wonder to watch.
In his latest film he takes Hans Christian Andersen's tale of "The Little Mermaid" and turns it into a simple story with a green message.
Sosuke is a five year old who one day finds a curious goldfish in the sea. He names her Ponyo without knowing that she is in fact an ocean princess. When he cuts his finger, she licks it and gains the power to become human.
However, in crossing this threshold Ponyo unleashes a natural imbalance which threatens to destroy the world. It's up to Sosuke and Ponyo to fix this, by making the ultimate choice of love.
Much more simplistic than anything else he's done, Miyazaki seems interested in making little children understand what he wants to say.
This often leaves more mature viewers stuckwith plot holes, lack of dramatic tension and a rushed climax that underwhelms.
Despite of this Miyazaki still embeds his movie with complex themes which remain mostly ignored by the dialogues and tease the audience.
Like the inverse situations we see with Ponyo and Sosuke's familiar statuses. Sosuke lives with his mother, while his father works in a ship.
Ponyo thinks her father keeps her "prisoner", but he's just trying to keep the planet safe, while her mother-a giant goddess called Granmammaren-maintains the seas in peace.
In this way Ponyo becomes Sosuke's oceanic compensation for a missing father figure (think Steven Spielberg's "E.T. the Extra-terrestrial").
There's also the lovely balance between the fantastical and the realistic. Miyazaki for instance imagines tsunamis to be provoked by giant fish-waves on a mission.
He deftly sets the two in a single frame, where they remain separate, yet together, as human characters only see the water and not the fish.
This makes for a fascinating dialectic between how mythology and modern life have been able to survive side by side.
In cultures, like the Japanese, this is stronger than in the Western world and rarely has a movie comprised this state in such a beautiful way.