“A Princess’ Crime and Punishment*”
Directed by Isao Takahata
Starring Aki Asakura, Kengo Kora, Takeo Chii and Nobuko Miyamoto
Following strange lights, a bamboo cutter (Chii) discovers a tiny princess in a bamboo trunk. The girl becomes a baby and the bamboo cutter and his wife (Miyamoto) raise her. She grows swiftly and so is known as Takenoko (Little Bamboo), and becomes close to a local boy, Sutemara (Kora). Finding silken robes and gold in the bamboos, however, the bamboo cutter takes Takenoko (Asakura) to the city to learn to be a princess, and a noble lord agrees to formally name her, dubbing her Kaguya, for the light of life she radiates.
Although given every advantage, Kaguya longs to return to her old home instead of the shelter of her privileged life. She strives to avoid the suits of great lords and even declines the advances of the Emperor, escaping from him as if by magic. She confesses to her parents that she was exiled from the Moon, wishing to experience life on Earth, but having asked the Moon for help to escape the Emperor, she must go back. Despite her father’s best efforts, the Moon comes for her and she returns to a life of forgetful and passionless contentment, but as she ascends in the Moon’s chariot, she looks back once with tears in her eyes.
What’s wrong with it?
The peasants Takenoko grows up with are hella pragmatic about stuff. “Oh, hey Li’l Bamboo; you seem to be six inches taller all of a sudden.”
What’s right with it?
Produced by Studio Ghibli, Princess Kaguya is a truly beautiful and moving film. It’s based on a folk tale and has the narrative structure of such, heavy on the narration, but is actually none the worse for it.
The animation uses a distinctive watercolour style which stands out against modern quasi-photographic CG animation as something unique and beautiful.
How bad is it really?
It’s really, really good. I mean, if you like that sort of thing (which I do.) It’s a very particular type of film, and it you want shiny effects, dynamic action and novel story, or if you don’t care for narration, it might not appeal. All in all, however, this is in here to give me a break from writing about nasty Italian schlock horror and let me contemplate something beautiful instead.
Best bit (if such there is)?
Overhearing her father’s guests demanding he let them see her, because she isn’t a real princess, Kaguya flees her naming party, tearing through walls in her haste.
What’s up with…?
- The unflappable calm of the Japanese peasantry?
Production values – Oh my golly this film is gorgeous. 0
Dialogue and performances – It’s hard to judge this accurately, as it was in Japanese with subtitles, but the emotion of the performances was certainly there, and the subtitled dialogue perfectly serviceable. 3
Plot and execution – As a folkloric tale, the plot is not textbook cinema, but unfolds like a beautifully told story. 5
Randomness – I guess… The escape scene may be a dream, and much of the film has a curious unreality, but that’s really part and parcel of what it is. 3
Waste of potential – Gorgeous. 0
* This tagline makes no sense to me.