Monday, December 18, 2006

Another Movie The Mir Uges You to See:

Yeah, yeah, I'm late to the party. It's not my fault. I've sat through so much crappy anime, that anything that smacks of "Japanese" and is "animated" makes me run out of the room.

But, I got so many recommendations to see HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE, that I caved. The film is based on the novel by Diana Wynne Jones (familiar to fans of fantasy, most likely.)

Glad I broke my "no anime" rule, too. Absolutely delightful film that I heartily recommend.

In brief: Set in some Europeanish land that feels like the 19th century, where contraptions of odd sorts and magic coexist happily, this is the story of Sophie, a plain young woman who works making hats, and who, after a brief rescue from sludgy thugs by a very attractive blond fella (the wizard Howl), finds herself cursed by the Witch of the Waste (who still resents not being able to capture Howl's heart). The curse turns her into a very old woman. So, off Sophie goes to the wizard in hope of breaking the curse. In typical fairy tale fashion, she has spunk and is quite industrious and noble of heart--helping a scarecrow stuck in a thicket (who then follows her slavishly, bounce-bounce-bouncing along), entering Howl's castle and bargaining with the fire demon, beginning to tidy up, taking charge of the place. Sophie and Howl and Markl (the boy who assists Howl) and Calcifer (the fire demon who is dependent on Howl, and Howl on he, in some symbiotic curse) end up getting along and working to end a war incited by the disappearance of a prince. (It won't take much guessing to figure out who's the prince). In the end, solutons are found and a new "family" is created from the cursed and lonely folks of the castle.

A truly happy and romantic, even, ending.

The castle itself if hilarious and whimsical and a joy to behold in action. The sort of thing I'd have given a few toes and fingers to ride in as a kid. The story has a generous and good heart, if you pardon the pun. (You'll get the pun if you see the film.) One young woman's selflessness and courage makes life better for a whole lot of people, breaking curses left and right. People don't always get what they deserve, interestingly. They do get compassion and grace and mercy. The idea of the longing for family is at play as well, and family may not be flesh-folk, but folk who band together and live together and make a life where they help and get help from one another, and where they put up with each other's moods, flaws, and eccentricities.

Good theme, that.

And if you like to laugh, Billy Crystal will make as Calcifer, the fire demon. I laughed my wee head askew.

Christian Bale adds something extra to the character of Howl, the tormented wizard. A weariness, a masculinity, a strength, a bit of humor. I really like Bale (he was the best Batman on film!), and while I didn't recognize the voice during the flim and had to check the credits, I kept thinking, " I know that voice. I know that voice!" He was perfect for the part.

For those who love a Beauty and the Beast type tale, this has that, too.

And I recognized at once the voices of Jean Simmons and Emily Mortimer (who got to kiss Gerry "HubbaHubba" Butler in the gentle and lovely film DEAR FRANKIE) but it took me a while to place Lauren Bacall, who does the Witch of the Waste perfectly, even after the character undergoes a rather startling transformation. (Oh, you're gonna love it.)

From what I've read about Academy Award winning animator, Hiyao Mayazaki, he's a gifted man with the knack of adding a special magic to his creations. His work has brought him great honor and success in his homeland (and globally) for films such as MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO, NAUSICAA: The Valley of the Wind, PRINCESS MONONOKE, SPIRITED AWAY and others.


Tap said...

Have you read the book this is based on? It isn't clear from your post.

Mirtika said...

Nope. I have not. But I placed it in my cart. :)


Elliot said...

Apparently the book and movie differ quite a bit, and die-hard fans muchly prefer the book. Still, the movie's good on it's own merits.

While there's a lot of crappy anime out there, anything Miyazaki touches turns to gold (well, almost everything.)

All the ones you list are brilliant, plus: Kiki's Delivery Service and Castle in the Sky are good fantasy movies by him.

I think you'd also like 'My Neighbours the Yamadas' and 'The Cat Returns' which are from his studio, though not directed by him.

Elliot said...

PS: And I'm looking forward to the Wizard of Earthsea movie from his son.

Mirtika said...

I am, too, Elliot. I remember clicking a link from your blog to some music and a still. Looked good.

The Sci-Fi channel miniseries was okay, but I wasn't dazzled. I hope this one dazzles.