Monday, August 17, 2009


Just a few quick words to express how utterly gaga I am over Hayao Miyazaki's stunningly beautiful animated children's film Ponyo, just released in the United States in a somewhat shaky English dub. If nothing else, it is a crash course in all that we've been missing since hand-drawn animation has largely been replaced on screens by blandly representational CGI. Miyazaki is an artist--he's famous for retouching his films drawing by drawing until he's completely satisfied--and his preferred medium is pen and ink, handpainted cels and, oh, those gorgeous backgrounds, largely remdered with charcoal crayons. As much as I love Pixar's work--and I do--they can't do anything like this:

That was a French trailer for a Japanese movie newly released in American theaters, but of all the publicity material I could find, it was the one that best showcased another of Ponyo's formidable assets, its gorgeous score by Joe Hisaishi, which perfectly complements the wondrous visuals conjured by the wizards at Studio Ghibli.

But to concentrate solely on the visual and aural beauties is to sell short Miyazaki's magnificent script, which is the most successful attempt I've ever seen at putting a child's view of the world on screen. The story in Ponyo doesn't just revolve around a five-year-old; it seems to have been written by one. It has a naive simplicity, a belief that wondrous things can happen all the time, that magic is everywhere, that brewing tea and receiving a hug from your mom are just as amazing and wonderful as prehistoric creatures casually swimming below your feet, or the moon coming closer to earth. Miyazaki knows that the very young are able to view the entire world with a sense of awe, and he captures that fleeting innocence with a heartbreaking precision.

A great movie, is what I'm saying.