Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Tale of The Princess Kaguya

A magnificent cherry tree in bloom, the ultimate Japanese symbol for mortality, exudes a striking emotional resonance in The Tale of Princess Kaguya, an adaptation of a Japanese fable by Studio Ghibli cofounder Isao Takahata. The soft colors, graceful movements, and clean lines that depict the animated figures and their environments, and the frequent close-ups of beautiful flora and fauna, embody the ineffable beauty of life on Earth that is one of the film's main themes. Meanwhile, the title character's transformation from the giddy, near-perpetual motion of her childhood to the mournful stasis of adolescence is a potent illustration of its feminist critique of what is traditionally supposed to constitute a happy life for a girl.

When Kaguya appears to a bamboo cutter in the mountainside field where the man works, she pops out of a bamboo stalk as a fully formed little girl, small enough to fit in the palm of his hand. But when he takes her back home, she turns into an infant in the arms of his nurturing wife, then grows up—eerily quickly—under the couple's loving care. A sweet and loving girl, she happily plays with the ragtag children of a woodworking family nearby, until her adopted father decides that country life isn't good enough for her. (Her pragmatic, nurturing adoptive mother seems to have her doubts about the plan, but she goes along with what her husband wants.) When another magic bamboo stalk delivers a pile of gold, the bamboo cutter uses it to build a palace in the nearby city, then moves his family there so Kaguya can learn how to be a royal lady, hidden away in her chambers with nothing much to do but tuck away every last shred of enthusiasm or individuality as she waits for some stranger to come claim her as his "prize."

Read the rest on Slant Magazine

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