The Tale of the Princess Kaguya ★★★★½

A monumental, winsome yet profound fairy tale of breathtaking beauty

The second Studio Ghibli production to reach our shores in 2014 after the beautiful yet completely different - in just about every way possible - The Wind Rises, The Tale of Princess Kaguya is a film directed by Isao Takahata and is the first film the director made for Ghibli since 1999's My Neighbors the Yamadas. Takahata isn't as big a boxoffice draw as the more famous Miyazaki over here, which is lamentable, because this film deserves at least as big an audience as the best of all of Ghibli's films.

Every inch a fairytale the story begins with a bamboo cutter working in the woods who discovers a tiny little princess emerging from a fresh piece of bamboo. He takes her home and decided to care for her. Not long hereafter - when his enthusiastic wife takes the tiny person off his hands - she turns into a baby and the pair have some serious raising to do. Because this is a fairytale the two don't really question the fact of how this miracle has come to be in their midst they just care for it to the best of their abilities.

The Tale Of Princess Kaguya, of which I described just a fraction, is a layered film, spanning years and years of the titular character's physical and emotional growth. It touches upon fundamental truths about beauty, love, and happiness in our lifetime. Kaguya herself is a strong willed girl and eventually woman - if she can be called that - and a great leading character. She makes us look at ourselves by showing us the absurdity or even more so the banality of life and all of the perceptions that go with it. The fact that this can be distilled from a film that is set in a Japan that has come and gone makes it all the more special.

Visually this is a stupefying effort. There is hardly a frame in this gorgeously drawn animated feature that wouldn't make a fantastic painting in anyone's home. From lush and colourful blossoming trees to Kaguya's beautifully bright clothes, it all works. There is one scene in the film, when our heroine runs away from something - I won't spoil it, you'll know it when you see it - where the animation almost completely comes apart and reverts to a kind of charcoal speed drawing and it is just mind blowing to watch. It's a scene to just take your breath away, and is the very definition of why anyone goes to the movies: to be amazed. It's not just in the visuals though, because composer Joe Hisiashi is a legend in his own right and I am typing this to the sound of this film's soundtrack, it is just so damn pretty.

So, to conclude, I have now seen two masterpieces from the legendary Studio in one year. It's hard for me to realize I missed so many of their films in their initial run, but when the studio (hopefully just temporarily) closes I can comfort myself by catching up with all the remaining Ghibli's I still have to see.

For now I just remain awestruck.

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