Tuesday, 6 January 2015

REVIEW - THE TALE OF THE PRINCESS KAGUYA (TAKAHATA ISAO)


One of Japan's oldest and most beloved folklores is granted the Studio Ghibli treatment in Takahata Isao's glorious The Tale of the Princess Kaguya. Takahata truly transfigures the ancient tale, without denying its core narrative and thematic content respect - he enriches it, expanding upon what had once been negligible details and elevating them that they become the centre of his new version. Typical to Takahata, his Princess Kaguya is an emotionally-driven tale, as he elaborates on his protagonist's thoughts and feelings, the advent of each emotion and the transformative consequences of those most keenly experienced. Rare to see an animation concern itself so fully with its characters' sentiments, and to see how Takahata teases out such intensity from the story, and how he devises such complete emotional arcs therein that fit so neatly within its framework is as admirable as it is moving. Takahata employs the essential stylistic tools of animation - quite plainly, its drawings - to communicate this affective slant on the tale, and the film's visual design is delicate and emotionally perceptive; it is also thrillingly varied, and Takahata and animation director Tanabe Osamu indulge in one particularly powerful expressive sequence as the princess escapes from her mansion, its contextual function and its sheer artistry representing a pinnacle of achievement in animation. That's a commonality between much of The Tale of the Princess Kaguya's key aspects, as many involved seem inspired by the gravity of this adaptation to turn in their finest work - a standout example is Hisaishi Jo's soundtrack, which perhaps surpasses all of this great composer's other masterworks. The film is quite burgeoning with detail, embracing its position as a modern retelling of an archaic legend, an abundance of beauty the result of the convergence of styles both old and new, and the immense reverence that the filmmakers display for their text. It's a reverence that ought to be replicated by those who see The Tale of Princess Kaguya.