Secret World (42/365)



Another only-photo-I-took-today day, a chance shot I snapped on the escalator down from seeing The Secret World of Arrietty. Deciding to take a picture on an escalator is a fun exercise in unpredictability — by the time I had my camera out and ready the shot was nothing like the one I’d started acting on.

Yes, I realize I could have just gone up and down again. Yes.


Arrietty was really good, I thought. It’s a placid, nostalgic film in the vein of Totoro and Whisper of the Heart, in which the conflict, such as it is, is on a decidedly personal scale (though of no less import to the characters involved). This is an ordinary world touched with magic, rather than in the other kind of Ghibli movie, in which epic adventure epic something somethings, sometimes with airships. I don’t have a problem with that kind of grandiosity, but it seems harder, somehow, to do it this way.

Miyazaki scripted this movie and didn’t direct, but like Whisper, you can very much feel his hand in it. I don’t want to take anything away from Yonebayashi, the director, because I don’t know which parts came from whom, but there’s a definite Miyazaki-ness about the movie that you don’t really get in, say, Ghibli’s Takahata films. This is a movie suffused with scenes of nature. It’s filled with ghosts of family history and past heartbreak. It’s set entirely in a place untouched by time in the middle of encroaching urban sprawl. In fact, if it weren’t for the bookend scenes of cars and travel, you might not even be able to place it in any specific where or when at all, which I love. As it is, I loved the weirdness of a film clearly set in Japan having mostly western-named characters, and not caring about that at all.

Also a Miyazaki hallmark: A great female protagonist. Though for once, she has awesome hair. I wonder if that was Yonebayashi’s influence?

(Yes, I’m ashamed for fixating on that. But seriously, her hair is awesome, although maybe second to the heroine in Disney/Pixar’s Brave trailer, which played beforehand.)

The score by Cecile Corbel was really nice. It actually was reminiscent of Joe Hisaishi’s early, charming scores for Totoro and Kiki, but with a little touch of Celtic flair. Lots of harp, which I liked. The sung music was stranger, especially at the end of the movie: “I am fourteen years old / I am pretty” — really? And the song about “Summer love with my best friend” that closed the credits was hilariously inappropriate, but I guess I understand why after discovering it was sung by Bridgit Mendler, who voiced Arrietty. She did a really superb job with the voice acting, and as someone who usually hates dubs, I figure that gives her license for at least one terrible song.

Speaking of voice acting, the biggest problem I had was continually hearing Carol Burnett’s voice coming out of the wrong face.

So! All in all, I really liked it. I’m not going to say it’s a contender for best Ghibli movie ever, but it’s worthy of the imprint. The most useful thing I can probably say is that I already want to see it again. But in Japanese this time.

Finally, a disclaimer: I admit I haven’t read The Borrowers, yet, but I hadn’t read Howl’s Moving Castle when I saw that movie either. I will get to it now, I promise.

Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/ianthe/neonepiphany.com/movabletype/mt5.2/php/lib/mtdb.mysql.php on line 15

Strict Standards: Only variables should be assigned by reference in /home/ianthe/neonepiphany.com/movabletype/mt5.2/php/mt.php on line 351
  • You bring up a brilliant point that I myself noticed when I watched the film – no definite "when" or "where," and the blending of Japanese and western cultures. It's really something when a film can present a story without ever explicitly saying where it is – and in this case, the location is really the just the house and its immediate surroundings, so it really is quite a finite setting. 

    I'm also glad you mentioned the oddly sung songs... I thought they were a bit silly, too. 

  • I know! I really love how he plays with time and location. I brought this up somewhere else, but it's neat how if you don't pay close attention, you probably wouldn't guess that Totoro takes place shortly after World War II than sometime closer to now.

  • I loved The Borrowers and The Littles as a kid, so I am eagerly awaiting this movie!

  • Looks like it's in wide release now, or at least there are a bunch of theatres in Boston that are showing it. I hope you enjoy it!

  • I loved The Borrowers when I was little, but I admit, I barely remember it.

  • I have a hold on it from the library, along with what looks like a BBC television production. Excited!

blog comments powered by Disqus

Powered by
Movable Type 5.2
neonepiphany dot com