Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Movie Log: My Neighbor Totoro

One of the two great holes in my family-movie experience has finally been filled; my two boys and I watched My Neighbor Totoro last weekend over lunch for our "Boys' Movie Saturday" feature. (The other hole is The Iron Giant, which I also hope to get to this fall.)

Totoro is a lovely film, and much quieter than the other Miyazaki movies I've seen. (They've all been fine movies, but the others are much more filled with action and incident than this movie is.) A professor and his two young daughters moves to a house in the Japanese countryside in the what seems to be the late '40s or early '50s, while their wife and mother (respectively) is being treated in a hospital for what might be tuberculosis. And then the girls (Satsuki, about 8, and Mei, about 4) meet some local nature spirits, while they worry about their mother's condition.

That's it for plot: there are some events (and some great scenes, mostly involving the largest spirit, or "Totoro" -- that's him to the left on the cover -- or a bus in the shape of a cat), but that's really all that's going on. There are some secondary characters, such as a boy Satsuki's age who probably likes her but goes out of his way not to show it, and the boy's grandmother, but they do stay secondary characters. This is one part character study and one part mood piece; it's about the two girls and their new home in equal parts.

What's really amazing about Totoro the way it allows itself to be slow. Traditionally filmed movies sometimes linger on scenes, but animation -- where every second of action, every minor movement, has to be hand-drawn over and over again for each frame of film -- is usually much tighter, sacrificing quietness for pace. Totoro doesn't do that at all; it feels like Miyazaki is allowing his camera to run freely, capturing scenes as they happen and soaking up the quiet rural atmosphere.

I'll want to watch this again, and I'll probably want to see the original Fox dub as well, to compare-and-contrast (I see that some viewers have very strong opinions one way or the other) it to this newer Disney version. But, even if this dub isn't as good as the previous one (as some people claim), My Neighbor Totoro is still a wonderful, amazing movie.


Anonymous said...

What's with the two discs? I've watched it three times (Netflix) and there's only been one disc.

Have you see Grave of the Fireflies? Not for the boys, but a haunting piece where the director's extras show that the way he wanted us to feel is almost the opposite of everybody I've talked to actually feels.

Anonymous said...

One of my favorites! So glad you finally saw it.

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