Ghibli Short Films at Carnegie Hall - A Report

Reader and Ghibli Freak Otto chimes attended the screenings of two Ghibli Museum short films at Carnegie Hall on March 26.  Many thanks to him for writing a detailed report on the experience.  His report from New York continues after the jump:

I attended the 6:30 screening and it was a great turnout with the entire theater being filled. After everyone was settled, everyone talked amongst themselves and waited for the show to start. Then the lights dimmed and in walks Steve Alpert. After introducing himself, I heard some sounds of delight when he mentioned that he works closely with Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki. Applause followed showing everyone's admiration and respect for him and everyone else involved at the studio.

He began to talk about the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan and what everyone at Ghibli has been doing since, followed by introducing the shorts themselves. He noted that Miyazaki completes a film every 3 - 4 years and in between, he would create these short films. Miyazaki would create them either for experimentation or if he wanted to do a story that can only be told in a short runtime. Then he finished off by thanking all of us for coming and to please enjoy the films followed by another applause.

The first film, Yado-Sagashi (House Hunting), begins with Fuki, leaving the polluted city behind in search of a new house in the mountains. Along the way, she would place apples at specific locations that are known to be homes for spirits as an offering or thank you. The film is drawn in a simple manner, leaving out unnecessary details; but the animations are fluid and all the subtle movements and gestures are still here. The color palette is bright and vivid, reminding me of the illustrations in picture books. To me, I think Yado-Sagashi falls into the category of experimentation, specifically in relation to the audio. You see, the entire film is absent of any musical score or sound effects, that is, absent of any instrumentally or mechanically made sound effects. Two voice actors provided the humming of music, and an entire library of sounds made by natural and artificial elements.

Personally, I think this was the star of Yado-Sagashi. The actors did a fantastic job mimicking real life sound effects, but the meat of it all comes from the effects that were intentionally exaggerated and caricatured. Sometimes, they would go as far to make inanimate objects seem like they were alive, such as groaning in pain as rain weighs down the roof of a house. It was a hit and everyone in the audience were humored from beginning to end, myself included.

The second film, Mizugumo Monmon (Mon Mon the Water Spider), follows a water spider in his daily routine of collecting bubbles and bringing them underwater to create a nest and provide himself with air, all while avoiding the predators that lurk in the water around him. Then one day, he meets a water strider in which he becomes infatuated with. The art style in this one was done in the more traditional style with quality you see in the feature length films. It was both charming and adorable and what is presented in the mere 15 minutes is beautiful.

The detail of life underwater in a pond is captured brilliantly and the surface of the water looked especially nice. Mizugumo Monmon also follows the theme of no dialogue being spoken. What is being used to communicate are bodily gestures and the eyes. This film felt like a feature film condensed into 15 minutes. It had conflict, romance, character development, and closure, all of it being paced perfectly. Also, Mon Mon is probably the only spider that would make anyone, even those who have Arachnophobia go, "Awwwwwwww."

Both films were followed by well deserved applause. After the second film ended, the lights turned back on and I heard some sounds of disappointment. Not so much in a negative way, but I think people wanted more or at least, was expecting Steve to come out again and give all of us closure for a wonderful time. I have to admit that I was also a bit disappointed at how abrupt all of it just ended. That's not to say I didn't enjoy every minute of it.

I was also hoping that they would have the companion booklets that you get when you watch the films at the Ghibli Museum. Seeing as how this is the first time that any Ghibli short film has been screened outside of the museum, I would think they would do some type of celebratory event with the films. That was just me having unrealistic expectations though. It was still a great experience overall.

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