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MOVIE REVIEW: FTN reviews The Tale of Princess Kaguya

April 2nd, 2015 by Conor ONeill Comments


The Tale of The Princess Kaguya (PG)
Kaguyahime no monogatari (original title)
Directed by: Isao Takahata
Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, James Caan &Mary Steenburgen
Running time: 137 min

I must confess, undress with stress and under duress that this is the first Anime movie I’ve ever reviewed. And what welcoming arms led me through the two hours and 13 minutes of this gorgeously animated tale of a bamboo cutter’s journey with a foundling princess who grows and grows. And with her growth turns the heads and minds of nobles and princes desperate for her hand in marriage.

The bamboo cutter literally hits gold another time again and again finding himself at odds with the simple life he was thrust into and isn’t quite able to deal with. Apparently this film is born of a 10th century Japanese legend of an unwilling princess loving her simple childhood amongst the hills and valleys of her birth, Lil Bamboo is a difficult child. With plenty of gold at his hands, the father sends her off to a strict matron designed to drill her in the ways of the elite and secure the highest of marriages.

There’s plenty of joy to be had at her tomboyish reluctance to her training, though she does amaze every tutor with her brilliance for music with one particularly divine and haunting lullaby which slowly becomes the background through this almost silent movie. And the silence is profoundly effective as the princess sends each of her five potential suitors of on quests of unattainable results.

Animation is a slow process and at 79-years-old this is supposed to be director’s Isao Takahata’s swansong. And what a way to go out. The animation is slightly at odds with the high definition Anime films I’ve watched before, but with it adds to the charming story of the reluctant princess, who at heart is endeared by the bugs, birds and beasts, grass trees and flowers of her humble beginning.

There’s not much action in this film. Not duels or high throttle scenes to get the heart thumping, but what we’re left with is the emphatically delightful tale of a young and head strong woman who gets what she wants. Heaven is mentioned in every scene, though no God is suggested.

Heaven, it seems here, is to be found in the beauty of nature.

Her future husbands are all found to be liars selling snake oil as the trophies of their failed quests. None of them will have her hand in marriage. The end scene brings us full circle and is indeed celestial. There’s not much more to say about this movie. In fact, to provide more details would spoil the joy of those of you who go to see it. Some might argue two hours, 13 minutes and six pounds 70 pence is a lot of time and money to invest in an Anime film. That is far from the truth. I’ll happily go again and pay double for the privilege.

Prepare to be awestruck, prepare to be charmed and unprepared to leave a film theatre with unbridled joy of feeling innocence fuelled humanity.

5 out of 5 Nerds


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Conor O'Neill is at times a playwright and a qualified journalist. He has worked for the Belfast Telegraph, Portadown Times and South Belfast Advertiser. He also contributes to various online e-zines, specialising in theatre, gig reviews and other cultural events. If you were to ask him what he does, he will say 'I'm functioning'... that's a lie. Best suited to pressure and deadlines, O'Neill thrives on the moment, the passion and the thrill of now, he's only happy when he's watching or reviewing a play.