Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Spirited Away

My wife and I both love animation, and she liked when I had shown her Japanese master Hayao Miyazaki's masterpiece My Neighbor Totoro a few months ago, enjoying his inventive way of telling his story, as well as his attention to detail in the animation. I had kinda kept his Oscar-winning fantasy Spirited Away away until I thought I knew how she'd feel about it. After hearing her say that she loved Miyazaki's creativity, I knew she'd absolutely love Spirited Away. It's one of the most wonderfully inventive movies ever made, with Miyazaki's imagination running wild in one of the best movies of the decade.
Let's see, it starts out with our timid little 10-year-old heroine Chihiro in the car with her parents on the way to their new house. They take a wrong turn and end up at an abandoned amusement park. They begin to smell food and soon find a steaming buffet of all kinds of deliciousness. Hungry, but seeing no one around, Chihiro's parents dig into the food, but Chihiro refuses, insisting that they'll get in trouble. What follows is a fantasy of mind boggling invention. After Chihiro's parents turn into pigs, Chihiro meets the mysterious Haku, who puts her on the run from the villainous Yubaba, then sends her to the four armed Kamajii, boiler master for Yubaba's bath house of the gods. Chihiro ends up working for the bath house, serving the various spirits who come to relax and wash there. And I think that only covers about the first 20 minutes or so of this 2 hour animation joyride.
Like many of Miyazaki's movies, Spirited Away is about the coming of age of the central female character. Chihiro begins the movie as meek and almost cowardly, she doesn't even want to accompany her parents into the dark tunnel leading to the amusement park. But by the end, she is fighting to save the lives of her friends and defeat Yubaba's powerful spells and her hold on the citizens of this strange place. She begins on her journey from childhood into being a young woman, learning courage and purpose and the power of love. Chihiro may be Miyazaki's greatest character achievement, and the movie itself belongs alongside Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and My Neighbor Totoro as the masters three greatest strokes of genius.

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