Trailers - Pom Poko, My Neighbors the Yamadas

Fresh off a triumphant opening weekend, the Studio Ghibli Film Festival in Minneapolis devotes Monday and Tuesday to Isao Takahata's Heisei Tanuki Gassan Pom Poko (1994) and My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999).  Both films are wildly different in subject matter, in tone, and in visual style.  They showcase an animation director's mastery of the form, his skilled sense of tragicomic melodrama, just as they showcase the remarkable artistic brilliance of Studio Ghibli.

It's easy to imagine these Ghibli films as the sole work of one man - that Hayao Miyazaki himself drew every picture, painted every cel.  This is only mythmaking, of course; the work of the studio's artists, painters and animators are critically important to bringing these movies to life.  And it's doubly true for Takahata, who himself is not an animator.  He depends upon his artists to realize his visions.  These films are a testament to their skills.

Pom Poko and Yamadas can easily be overlooked in the Ghibli canon, but once you sit down and watch, you are mesmerized, awed.  Why don't I watch this movie, or that movie, more often?  Why am I not writing more, sharing more?  You know the feeling.  We are blessed with a bounty of riches.  Every one of Takahata and Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli films (and I'll also include Yoshifumi Kondo's Mimi/Whisper) can be rightfully called a masterpiece.  These two men are the world's greatest living movie directors, and they've earned their title.


Christopher Sobieniak said...

It was nice that they managed to get DVD releases over here when they did.

I Make Comments said...

I loved My Neighbors the Yamadas, it has a really wonderful visual style...although Pom Poko I honestly think is one of the weakest Ghibli films, almost down there with Cat Returns and Earthsea. It has some funny moments, and great animation, but the plot feels a bit unfocused, and none of the characters feel fully developed.

Anonymous said...

I agree that both movies are highly underrated. Pom Poko is one of the most thoroughly entertaining movies I've ever seen. Lots of great comedy and very heart felt drama all mixed into one. Sure the characters never really develop, but I think we're supposed to look at the Tanuki community as a whole rather than through any one individual. The only real criticism I can think of is in the very last scene, when the Tanuki starts preaching to us; was Takahata worried that people might not get the message? But either way it doesn't bring down the movie and I would much rather watch this entertaining romp than depressing "Grave" any day.

J.R.D.S. said...

I've found that watching the videos of Shinji Ōtsuka and Makiko Futaki scenes at Catsuka is among the most effective ways of dispelling the "animated features are made by the director plugging their head into a machine which prints their imaginings to film" variety of impressions which can seem at first like the only explanation for how some of Miyazaki's could have been made, so much do they have that "best dream EVER" feel. But after seeing them put together like that it's difficult to imagine anyone else having been able to animate them.

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