On Saturday, November 26, Film Independent and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art hosted a film exposition with a focus on Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli. Here’s a rundown of the event, along with synopses and reviews of the movies shown:
To start things off, I live in Orange County, so you can bet it took a long time to get to Los Angeles. This was the first time I’d been to LA, so my cousin and I nearly got lost. We left at around 2 PM (the first film started at 4:30 PM) and found the LACMA building at around 3:45. With some time to spare, I was going to explore the exhibitions. Sadly, I got lost just going to the restroom and decided to just wait in line for the screenings to start. Both of the movies were shown in color and in Japanese, with English subtitles.
Shown along with the movies was a preview of Studio Ghibli’s new film, The Secret World of Arriety. Working together with Disney, Studio Ghibli brings out the story of The Borrowers (Mary Norton) in a beautifully animated film of a young borrower named Arriety and her chance encounter with a human boy. For more information about the movie, go here.
The first film shown was Castle in the Sky (1986):
The movie opens with a bird-shaped airship flying through the clouds; the audience then sees a group of men and a single woman in long pink braids, departing in miniature planes resembling flies. The clouds part and show a larger airship, with a young girl longingly looking out the window, along with men in shades (who seem to be her bodyguards). She refuses food offered to her by one of the men, and when looking back at the sky, she notices the miniature planes. The woman in pink braids is presumed to be the leader (Captain Dola AKA Mama), and orders her henchmen to attack the captain. It is then discovered that the attackers are pirates; the young girl hits one of her bodyguards with a wine bottle, grabs a blue stone necklace, and escapes through the window. Within a few minutes the pirates find her, and in a scuffle to grab the necklace, the girl falls from the ship. The stone in her necklace, however, seems to have magical powers, and makes the girl float down instead.
You can read the rest of the plot here.
I really enjoyed this movie and its vivid graphics and sound. It isn’t my favorite Studio Ghibli film, but I liked watching it. The storyline was very suspenseful and kept me on edge, and the characters were extremely realistic. The art itself was beautiful, and, as with all of Hayao Miyazaki’s films, had an immense amount of detail incorporated into the scenery, the airships, and the floating island. The concept of war and peace is shown throughout the movie, along with the theme of destruction and rebirth coexisting. Muska aims to use Laputa as a way to bring everybody together as one empire. Sheeta’s destruction spell consequently cleans up the floating island and allows for Laputa to have a new beginning. As there are violent scenes and the use of weapons, I would recommend this movie for older children and teens.
The second movie was Spirited Away (2001):
The movie opens with a young girl named Chihiro in the backseat of a car with her parents; the family seems to be moving to a new home, and Chihiro isn’t too happy about her situation. On the way to their new house, her father decides to take a shortcut and ends up getting the family lost. They stop right before a tunnel, and, while Chihiro vehemently tries to persuade her parents otherwise, her father and mother decide to investigate. Chihiro, afraid of being alone, grabs onto her mother’s arm and the three come out of the tunnel and find what her father calls “an abandoned amusement park.” Chihiro is very wary and wants to go back, but her father picks up the scent of some sort of food, leading her mother into a shop with no attendants. The couple find full plates of food, however, and begin to eat their hearts out. Chihiro doesn’t join her parents in the feast and explores the rest of the “amusement park.” She finds a bridge leading to an extravagant bathhouse, and meets a young boy who warns her to get away before night falls. Chihiro runs back to her parents, only to find out that they’ve turned into huge pigs. The scenery changes and all the shops turn on their lights; Chihiro tries to get back to the car but is separated from the tunnel by a vast ocean. Ghosts and large animals begin to move about in the town and Chihiro, frightened to death, can only hide behind a building.
You can read the rest of the plot here.
Possibly my second favorite movie from Studio Ghibli (Howl’s Moving Castle being my first), Spirited Away has so many hidden meanings and moral lessons to be learned. Chihiro’s parents turning into pigs is a perfect example of the little saying “you are what you eat” and shows how greed can make you lose sense of who (or what) you are. The importance of names is also mentioned in the movie, as Haku tells Chihiro not to forget her name in order to escape the town. The problem of pollution is touched in the middle of the film, as the river god visits the bath house covered in sludge. When Chihiro finds a “thorn” (it turns out to be a bicycle handle) in the god and pulls it out, a huge amount of trash and various items is released and covers the bathhouse floor. There are quite a few more topics that were approached as well, so do watch the movie! Because ghosts and monsters appear in the movie and sensitive topics are shown, I recommend Spirited Away for older kids as well.
Overall, this was a new but very enjoyable experience for me. While it took me a very long time getting there and coming back home (I came home around 11:00 PM), I will be looking forward to future film expositions by Film Independent and LACMA.
Head here for a complete listing of upcoming Film Independent events.
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