Monday, July 11th, 2005
It Still Moves
Howl’s Moving Castle is Hayao Miyazaki’s latest film and the first to be released since the (relative) crossover success of Spirited Away. While it’s still unmistakably Miyazaki, it breaks away from his template of the plucky young heroine by instead going with the plucky elderly heroine.
The main character, Sophie, is an 18-year old girl who has the misfortune of being transformed via magical curse (of course) into the body of a wizened old lady for her association, however brief, with a young magician named Howl. Fleeing her home in search of a cure, she ends up housekeeper in Howl’s magical castle, a fantastical contraption which resembles Baba Yaga’s hut as imagined by Terry Gilliam. From that point on, honestly, I’m not 100% sure of where the plot went so I can’t really recap it. I’m not too proud to admit that I’ve always had a bit of a problem following Miyazaki’s higher-concept films – I thoroughly enjoy them but I don’t necessarily get them. Maybe something gets lost in the translation, maybe it’s not there in the first place, maybe I’m just not that smart, but everything that follows from that point was moderately confusing. There are several powerful yet inexplicable curses on major characters, a war of some description that stays way in the background for most of the film before suddenly leaping to the fore, what may or may not be love triangles… I’m really not sure.
It was, however, beautifully rendered – no less than one would expect from the master of Japanese animation. Besides the castle itself, there is no shortage of marvelous and whimsical characters and settings to enthrall, even if the viewer has difficult keeping up with the story (ie – me). The helpful scarecrow, Mr Turniphead, and Suliman’s dog were particularly endearing. On the voice acting end, it was interesting and a little odd to hear Christian Bale providing the voice of Howl – he’s Batman, you know? It’s weird to hear Batman bemoaning the loss of his good looks or the change of his hair colour. Suck it up, Bats.
It could well be that with a little background research from Nausicaa.net, repeat viewings could be far more rewarding as far as the story goes. And I can think of worse things than to watch Miyazaki films over and over again.
Finally – Sigur Ros’ new album is entitled Takk, the Icelandic word for “thanks”, and will be out September 12 in Europe, presumably on the 13th in North America. Full tracklisting here. Also on the release calendar – Catherine Wheel’s Rob Dickinson’s first solo album Fresh Wine For The Horses is in stores September 13 and Nellie McKay’s still-untitled follow-up to Get Away From Me is out September 27.
The Vice Guide to Toronto. Oh God.
np – Innaway / Innaway