A TASTE OF THE ORIENT
Since I haven't done a review of an animated film yet, I thought I would start the ball rolling with easily one of the greatest animated films of all time, 'Spirited Away'.
Young Chihiro and her parents are driving to their new home when her father takes a shortcut through the woods. They find a deserted town that her father thinks is a theme park. Her parents sit down to eat the food there, while Chihiro wanders away to a giant bathhouse. She meets a mysterious boy called Haku who warns her to leave before nightfall, but she is too late and sees her parents get transformed into pigs. Haku tells Chihiro that she is now in the realm of the spirits and that her parents have eaten spirit food. She is hunted because she is a human and does not belong in the spirit world. Chihiro’s only hope is to go and see the scary witch Yubaba who runs the bathhouse and ask for a job. In return for giving her a job, Yubaba takes Chihiro’s name from her and calls her Sen. Sen is put to work cleaning where she is given the worst tasks. There she faces a stink spirit who is threatening to pollute the bathhouse and accidentally lets in a lonely monster that starts trying to eat everybody and everything. After Haku is fatally wounded while in dragon form, Sen must undergo a difficult journey to save him by returning a seal stolen from Yubaba’s twin sister Zeniba.
What is special about this film is how no person is portrayed as a simple villain. In fact, there are no villains. Just people going about their lives. It is the situation that creates the conflict, a very mature message to appear in what is essentially a children's film.
This is a film that is obviously not knocked off the assembly line like so many kids' films at the moment. The animation is creative and complex. It is a rare film where a great story comes together with superior production values, and one where people of many ages and cultural backgrounds can appreciate.
Spirited Away is an exquisite and extraordinary film from an animator who has no equal. There’s a simplicity of story at the heart of it, one where Chihiro’s child-like innocence and non-judgmentalness is seen as having a purity and truth up against everyone else who is blinded by greed or stupidity. The imagination of Hayao Miyazaki’s world, the detail it comes in and the quiet power of Spirited Away is stunning. Occasionally toward the end, the film seems a little hurried. Haku suddenly realizes his true name, the twin sister who put a curse on him is quickly revealed to be a good witch and Chihiro’s final test is passed with amazing ease, but Spirited Away has genuine beauty. It should be seen by everybody.
VERDICT - MAKES DISNEY LOOK DULL