Combustible Celluloid
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With: Chloë Grace Moretz, James Caan, Mary Steenburgen, Darren Criss, Lucy Liu, Beau Bridges, James Marsden, Oliver Platt, Hynden Walch, Dean Cain, Daniel Dae Kim, George Segal, John Cho, Emily Bridges
Written by: Isao Takahata, Riko Sakaguchi
Directed by: Isao Takahata
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements, some violent action and partial nudity
Language: Japanese, with English subtitles
Running Time: 137
Date: 10/17/2014

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2014)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Bamboo Cute

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Produced by Studio Ghibli and directed by Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies), The Tale of the Princess Kaguya gives hope that the studio can continue after the apparent retirement of master Hayao Miyazaki.

In the story, a bamboo cutter finds a tiny princess inside a tree. He takes her home and she transforms into a baby. The baby begins to grow rapidly, and soon finds playmates near their woodsy home. She falls in love with a local boy, but before long the cutter finds gold in another tree. He decides that the princess shall have royal things and a royal upbringing, so he moves the family to the city. There she learns manners and royal behavior and wears fancy clothes and attracts many male suitors. She sends five prominent men on wild goose chases for the right to win her hand, but all the while, she pines for life and freedom again.

Based on centuries-old Japanese folktale, the movie is told with a shockingly simple style; images are hand-drawn but the focus is not on color and detail, speed and movement. Rather it's on a kind of lush softness, as if made from gentle, simple pencil and brush-strokes. It leaves white spaces in the background. It takes its time over 2 hours and 17 minutes. There are no chases... just people learning about life. And it's absolutely beautiful.

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