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THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA -- Movie Review

Truly one of Studio Ghibli's best films...

It’s a shame that a large portion of Ghibli’s American fanbase views any non-Miyazaki film as a seat-filler. Isao Takahata directed THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA, and it’s better than THE WIND RISES by a wide margin. Depending on how WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE plays, of course, it may yet prove to be the studio’s most fitting final statement.

The film has been mis-marketed. The American trailer makes it look a quaint fairy tale, with its unusual brush stroke style being the major selling point. While that animation flourish (consciously evoking illustrations from the story’s era) is certainly marvelous, the real hook here is the pointed critique of celebrity, and the male gaze. If that’s difficult to get across in quotes on a poster, then let’s try something buzzier and say this is a sharp antidote to princess films.

Asking bigger existential questions (more on the order of films like THE FOUNTAIN), PRINCESS KAGUYA very viscerally puts viewers in the seat of the archetypal, perfect maiden featured in every fairy tale. What would really like to be known as the fairest of them all? What would it really be like to be put on a pedestal? What would it really like to be adored by everybody?

The most pointed scenes come when Kaguya sees the sharp disconnect between the lofty ideal her suitors are courting, and the rambunctious young girl her real friends know her to be. Sometimes, the gulf closes with humorous pratfalls, as she famously sets the richest men up off retrieve ludicrous, impossible treasures as her dowry. More often, the gap turns tragic, and we can feel her profound sense of guilt, realizing these young men got themselves killed chasing the idea of a woman, not even af person.

Without spoiling too much, the film’s finale is one of the most mesmerizing and thought-provoking scenes I’ve seen in any picture, live or animated, this year. When Buddha and his entourage descend from the moon, this takes on the quality of a true, classic tragedy that were likely absent in the original folk tale. Kaguya tries to escape her destiny and ultimately finds should prefer the humble simplicity of rural living with her family and friends over the burden of being a legend.

Kino88on Dec. 16, 2014 at 4:32 p.m.
very nice recommendation, believe it or not given The fairy tale setting, I'm a bit curious as to why Miyazaki Was the one handling "The Wind Rises", a mostly grounded And somewhat dour Bio pic (of sorts) that ironically felt a lot more like Takahata's kind of film, I say this because I believe Takahata Would have done a better job with that type of material, whereas Miyazaki's strengths are almost always the fantastical, it's as if both directors decided to switch it up, but based on your recommendation I guess Isao can handle Fantasy just fine, don't get me wrong Miyazaki is amazing At what he dose best, but maybe when it comes to filmmaking Takahata may simply have better range,
Donwunon Dec. 16, 2014 at 7:57 p.m.

Sounds right up my alley... love the more played down character pieces like Whisper of the Heart so yeah - Thanks for pointing this out Tom

reiyoon Dec. 16, 2014 at 9:33 p.m.

This is good, says my friend.

zaldaron Dec. 20, 2014 at 11:39 p.m.

hmmm I get nervous when anyone uses the words male gaze as I have had bad experiences with second wave feminism. This doesn't sound bad though. Not as good as the REAL miasakia (nothing is going to beat princess monokoya or ponyo have not seen wind also rises but do here it is somewhat of a misfire) but this might be interesting. Oddly (given they are incredibly worse than the west arguably ever was in how they treat real women) the Japanese have a thing for sending up the idea of a women wanting to be saved by a man. I mean even in sailor moon she grows up and basically becomes a goddess and saves herself. The entire magical girl idea can be seen as a subversion of western fairy tales.

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