Saturday, June 17, 2006

Movie Log: Kiki's Delivery Service

Today was Young Witches Day at La Casa de Wheeler: Boys' Movie Saturday featured Kiki's Delivery Service (part of our leisurely stroll through the movies of Hayao Miyazaki), and I also read Terry Pratchett's upcoming Discworld novel Wintersmith (which features Tiffany Aching).

I won't talk much about Wintersmith (it's a new Pratchett novel; it's good -- take that as written), but I was impressed again at how even his "good guys" (the characters he clearly likes the most, has invested a lot of time and thought into, and possibly reflect some of his ideas and world-view) like Sam Vimes and, in this book, Granny Weatherwax, aren't necessarily nice people. So many popular writers -- who I will resolutely refuse to name -- turn their favorite characters into avatars of wonderful specialness, refusing to let them do anything bad or have anything bad happen to them, that it's very refreshing to realize that no one in his right mind would ever want to meet Granny Weatherwax unless some horrible Story-based death was coming up fast on the inside. Tiffany is a bit nicer, but she's still not the generic Magical Girl that she would have inevitably turned into in a lesser writer's hands. Great work all 'round.

Kiki's Delivery Service (from 1989) is part of what I'm now thinking of as Miyazaki's "Mediterranean Period" (with Porco Rosso, his 1992 movie), though some of the architecture looks more Northern European. That's mostly from the look of the scenery and some of the buildings; the setting is kept vague -- we don't know where the story takes place or even when. It looks vaguely like the 1930s, with big cars and giant blimps. A young witch sets out to find her place in the world at age thirteen, moves into a strange city for her requisite "year of training" (though it's clear that nobody is actually going to train her; the point is to find out herself who she is and what she can do), and has some generally mild adventures. It's not a heavily plotted movie -- something it apparently has in common with Miyazki's immediately preceding movie, My Neighbor Totoro -- but it moves along just fine on character interactions and visual imagery. (It will be nice when the US animation industry is large and mature enough to create a movie like this.) Perhaps the highest praise I can give it is by saying it's a thinly-plotted movie centered on a girl, her cat, and the boy she's not sure if she likes, and my two sons (ages eight and five and notoriously squirmy) enjoyed it from beginning to end, and stayed on the couch almost the entire time. Miyazaki just makes movies that are a joy to watch and experience; I wish he had a dozen more that I hadn't seen yet. At this point, I'm left with Princess Mononoke, Totoro and Howl's Moving Castle -- though, from IMDB, it looks like there are various short films and miscellaneous early middle-of-series things that I might need to eventually track down.

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