Riffs - Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea

Riffs - Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea
Riffs - Heisei Tanuki Gassan Pom Poko
There are many really terrific riffs scattered throughout Ponyo. These little quotes of shots and poses are a regular event in any Miyazaki or Takahata animation, and they are especially subtle here. I've long wondered if these are created for the artists' own satisfaction, or if they are little scavenger hunts for the diehard fans. Either way, it's a lot of fun to spy these.

Let's take a look at these two. This magnificent scene where Ponyo escapes from her prison and gleefully (and innocently) makes a wreck of her father's house. This is the first part of the spectacular action setpiece of the movie - Miyazaki's tsunami that swallows the coastal town.

I think this particular riff is very gleefully ironic. For Heisei Tanuki Gassan Pom Poko was the first Studio Ghibli film to incorporate CGI. Three cuts in the movie incorporated computer graphics, and one of them was this shot of the swirling waterways.

I suppose you could also say that Pom Poko shares a similar surreal mythology with Ponyo, especially the main characters that morph into different forms, from detailed human-like persons to simple iconic cartoons. Japanese audiences can readily accept the idea of a fish that grows into a girl, because they have their folk and mythic traditions of tanuki and foxes and spirits.

Every once in a while, I see elements that tie the Studio Ghibli films together, and it adds extra layers of meaning to these brilliant works. Despite its spectacular animations, and despite its agenda as a children's movie, there is a lot of depth to be discovered in Ponyo. If this isn't an excuse to shuffle off to the theater for that third viewing, I don't know what is.


Anonymous said...

It's almost like they're saying "We can do this without 3D, and do it even better!"

Dan Hamman said...

Oh oh I noticed one watching Castle of Cagliostro just yesterday!

The shot JUST after Lisa has been shopping, there is a split second of foliage or something obscuring the frame, and then her car drives in and stays (with moving background) in the centre of the screen, just like at the start of Cagliostro.

She also shares a driving spirit with Lupin somewhat

Chris said...

Yeah, all the driving scenes and especially the physics of the car are definitely channeling the spirit of Lupin.

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

I was reminded a lot of the classic car chase in Castle of Cagliostro; I especially loved the wild, reckless driving. There's an essay in Starting Point where Miyazaki tells the story about one night when Yasuo Otsuka got drunk, was driving his car recklessly and terrifying his passengers, and then crashing his car off a cliff in the middle of road construction.

I get the feeling that everybody connected to the Miyazaki clan drives like that. Always with the crazy little cars!

Sean L. said...

Does this count as one?:

"Spirited Away" and "Ponyo" both share the motif of a tunnel, though it was used at different stages of the story. Chihiro first encounters a tunnel at the beginning of her journey, and Sosuke and Ponyo encounter a tunnel towards the end of theirs. But in both cases the tunnel seems to be an important symbol-- a gateway for an important test of character.

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