Went out at 8, 3 and a half hours later and I’m home, barely even drunk and 40 quid out of pocket. Went out to meet some old peeps from college, half the fuckers didn’t even turn up, most left early, the latest any of them stayed out was half 10, so I rescheduled my 2am fucking taxi for fucking 11 and sat around for half an hour looking at the pictures hung up at Weatherspoons and finishing my last drink, most of them are of famous scientists and scholars. WHAT THE FUCK IS A PICTURE OF MARIE CUFKING CURIE DOING IN A BAR WHERE THEY PLAY FUCKING TAO CRUZ. EVERYTHING IS WRONG.
FUCK FUCKING CAMBRIDGE. YOU ARE A SHIT NIGHT OUT.
I miss Newport…
In compliance with a previous post, here’s a review of the last film I saw, Arrietty. My knowledge of The Borrowers prior to seeing this was an awareness of the novel and having seen the 1997 film, which I didn’t like even as a child, so I wasn’t sure what I was going to get going into this. What I was sure of is that it was going to be an enjoyable film, Studio Ghibli (and Hayou Miyazaki in particular) have a phenomenal track record that’s comparable to Pixar in the US (better, in my opinion). I’ve never come across a Ghibli film I haven’t liked or even been particularly unsure about, but more than that, several of them captivated so much that I instantly regarded them among my favourite films of all time, these examples being Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind, Howl’s Moving Castle, Grave of the Fireflies and My Neighbour Totoro. No other substrata of film has so many entries in the rather exclusive list that is my favourite films, I can now delightedly report that Arrietty is now also among them.
For those unfamiliar, Arrietty is an adaptation of Mary Norton’s 1952 novel The Borrowers, which tells the story of a family of the titular creatures, tiny little versions of us, no bigger than a AAA battery. I haven’t read the book so I have no idea how faithful Arrietty is to the story, but I presume they’re pretty close. The title character is the teenage daughter of this particular borrower family, she’s growing up and is eager to go out ‘borrowing’ with her father (scavenging human houses for odds and ends that they can put to better use). During her trip she’s discovered by Sho, the ailing boy who’s just come to stay at the house, he meets this discovery with friendly and harmless curiosity (or so he thinks) but they are cautious, being discovered is too heavy a price. Eventually knowledge of their existence begins to put them in danger, particularly from the house’s paranoid maid (who still manages the be likeable, like many Ghibli films there’s no real antagonist) and they begin to face the idea that they might have to move somewhere new, which leads to a beautifully bitter sweet, mooted ending. The story is genuienly wonderful, Miyazaki has always exhibited a flair for writing strong female protagonists and Arrietty herself is no exception, she’s bold, determined and kind, but also reckless and something of a thrill seeker, jaded with her homespun life. The really great thing about the world Arrietty spins is that everyone and everything is bursting at the seams with character, something you just don’t see enough of elsewhere, the borrowers, the people, the bird, the cat, the crickets, everything has an exuberance of personality that just enthralls you beginning to end, nobody does this stuff better than Studio Ghibli. I was delighted to see so many children around me in the cinema, at first some of the parents went on something of a ‘grumble grumble subtitles’ whispery rant but by the time the film was 10 minutes in everyone was loving it. Like many other Ghibli films Arrietty knows it isn’t just a movie for children, it’s a movie for everyone, it has depth to it that is not often found in films of this kind, there’s a pitch perfect moment towards the final act in which Sho bickers with Arrietty about her species being doomed and displays a deeply pessimistic attitude that gives way to a heart rending confession about his illness, this is the kind of depth and emotional weight a lot of American animators seem to think is too much for a child audience, Miyazaki clearly disagrees, as do I.
The animation, as to be expected, is stellar. The first ‘borrowing’ sequence early on is flawless and impossibly tense for what it is, the animators playfully and inventively utilize the premise of life on a bug’s scale, filling the film with gorgeous minutiae that really sells the world you’re watching, examples including the water becoming all gloppy and more viscous at the borrowers’ level and double sided tape re-purposed as climbing apparatus. The character design is fantastic as ever, one thing I noticed in particular was Arrietty’s hair, which has that peculiar and distinctly Ghibli habit of increasing in volume during moments of shock or tension. The sound design too is just fantastic, it shares Princess Mononoke’s ingenious use of quiet moments that magnify one particular sound, such as Arrietty and her father walking across a bridge of exposed nails, I’ve never seen onomatopoeia so brilliantly translated to an on screen device as it is by those two films. The score is good, the vocals can become a little overbearing at times, it doesn’t have the same quiet beauty as some of Joe Hisiashi’s scores but it’s still excellent, I’m just glad I didn’t have to endure another Noah Cyrus song.
Arrietty is a gorgeous, amazing film that’s absolutely full of life and vibrancy, possibly the best ever Ghibli film for anyone who hasn’t sampled that world yet and easily one of their best in general, that’s not an accolade that should be awarded lightly. I urge everyone in the UK, Europe or even Japan to see it as soon as they are able, yanks, I advise you to wait until it gets to the big screen, I know it’s a long time off but it’s worth the wait, if you pirate this you officially have no soul. Also, watch it in Japanese if you can, the way it was intended to be seen.