Isao Takahata and Citizen Kane

A few posts back I wrote about the importance of becoming cinematically literate, of being aware of the great movies and the great filmmakers. One big reason for this is that you can learn much about filmmakers by studying their influences. Bono was right - every artist is a cannabal, ever poet is a thief.

There are a couple excellent examples we can look at here at the Ghibli blog. Isao Takahata has always sought to bring the styles of his favorite films - from artists like Fellini, Renoir, Ozu, Truffault, and Welles - to Japanese animation. From time to time he has paid tribute in his own work to his old teachers.

Here is a shot from an episode of Heidi. This comes just before Heidi's aunt returns suddenly to take the girl with her to Frankfurt, and away from the grandfather. In this dramatic scene, Grandfather and this other man debate Heidi's fate, while she plays in the background, oblivious to what will soon happen. Needless to say, it's a pretty tense moment.

This scene quotes one of the celebrated moments from Citizen Kane. It's a terrific demonstration of deep-focus photography, as the young Charlie Kane, his parents, and his benefactor all share the same frame, in focus. You can see the shot here, and I'm sure you've seen this movie countless times. This triangular composition will appear again in the movie several times, as Kane's fate is decided by others...and he is left in the background, helpless and impotent.

Takahata pays one more tribute to Citizen Kane, and it comes at the very end of the final episode of Anne of Green Gables. In fact, it's the final two shots of the entire series. Remember how Orson Welles opens his movie with a succession of shots of Xanadu, circling closer and closer? Notice that the window occupies the same position on the screen in each shot. It's a great visual motif.

If you're observant, you'll see the same thing at the end of Anne. The series ends with Anne's final speech (ahem, previous post) and then pulls away with a series of outside shots that move further and further away. Again, if you pay attention, you'll see that the light in Anne's window occupies the same space on the screen during those final shots. It's very sly, and you may not even spot it if you're not paying attention.

Takahata hasn't directly quoted other films many times, but those times that he has are memorable scenes, every one of them. Remind me to show them sometime before I forget.

Oh, and if you're wondering, the text in that final shot is from the subtitles, which are burned onto the Anne fansub.

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