This has been a long, dark, violent week. I think we all need a pick-me-up. So here are a short collection of screenshots from Ponyo.
This is a beautiful work of art. I always have to pinch myself, and repeat the mantra in my mind: Everything is drawn by hand. No computers. It's difficult to take your eyes away from the painterly backdrops. Notice the evident brushtrokes in that sky, the textures of the clouds. While Hollywood CGI is obsessed with something called "realism," here is an animated movie that celebrates the artform. Here is a work by painters who love to paint.
The textures in the trees, the furniture, it all aims at a painterly approach. This is an Impressionist film, if not directly expressionist. You can imagine Monet or Van Gogh working on movies, and creating something very much like this. The art book is going to be spectacular. I only hope I'll be able to hold out until after August 14.
Clearly, Ponyo is a movie where Miyazaki and his team at Studio Ghibli feel the need to assert themselves. Miyazaki aims to prove his skills as an master filmmaker well in his 60s. Ghibli aims to demonstrate why they're the finest art studio in the world. Color designer extrordinaire Michiyo Yasuda aims to finish her long career with tremendous splashes of color. The color design in this movie is magnificent. I can't image Ghibli without her; I only hope her students have done their homework.
I don't know if Ponyo will connect with American audiences. I hope it does, but I've said that about every Ghibli movie to appear on movie screens and DVD. It still hasn't happened. Animation in the US is strictly in the realm of digital babysitters, and parents don't expect much, only something that will shut up the little tykes for a while and calm them down. Shuffle in, shuffle out, chew on some grass. Moo. I hope this movie will enable the audiences to open their eyes as well, and maybe, just maybe, everyone young and old can experience Miyazaki's opus together, as equals.
This is why I have confidence in Ponyo's US producers. They are after the same goals. And they have the means to make it happen. For once, a Ghibli film is going to have a fighting chance in the United States. Wear some green and cross your fingers.