Archive for Laputa the Flying Island

Tardi Sweep

Posted in Comics, FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 11, 2019 by dcairns

APRIL AND THE EXTRAORDINARY WORLD — I think the title doesn’t quite work in English — too vague — is a rather dazzling and genuinely charming steampunk adventure inspired by the works of cartoonist Jacques Tardi, also the source for Luc Besson’s THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF ADELE BLANC-SEC (the key word here is “extraordinary,” it would seem).

Besson is a bugbear of mine. There are the films that are just hateful, the ones that are nearly good, or good in places and upsetting in others, and then there are his attempts to be charming, which are horrible. I think probably he has an awful personality (Google “Luc Besson accusations”) and he’s one of those guys who can’t help but put himself into his work. For all his limitations, Michael Winner had something similar going on, you always felt you were in the hands of a nasty piece of work. In the case of ADELE BS, Besson’s decision to plaster his supporting cast in grotesque, no, UGLY makeups is a great bit of self-revelation, in that it tries to be about capturing a comic-book ambience (the way the live-action Tintin movies gave Captain Haddock a bizarre, painted-on beard, or Robin Williams’ corky arms in POPEYE) but doesn’t resemble Tardi’s attractive caricatures whatsoever. It can be read only as an eruption of nastiness from somewhere outwith the project.

When I worked in animation, abortively, my colleague remarked “There’s only so much shit a thing can contain before it’s JUST SHIT.” Besson always gives me a little more shit than I can overlook.

Whereas, I’m glad to say, AATEW (AVRIL ET LE MONDE TRUQUE, or “fake world,” in the original — which doesn’t really fit the story either) is properly delightful. Marion Cotillard and the late Jean Rochefort do voices. The characters and setting look enough like Tardi to pass and there’s humour, constant delightful invention, and no Bessonian bum notes. Nobody can really draw like Tardi, and they certainly can’t mass-produce Tardi drawings in sufficient quantity for an animated feature film, and computers certainly can’t do it, but with enough skill, respect and taste there’s a possibility of getting close enough to be pleasing. This, the filmmakers (directors Christian Desmares and Franck Ekinci, writers Ekinci and Benjamin Legrand) have succeeded in marvelously.

The production design is fabulous, the colour a little cautious (as with BELLEVILLE RENDEZVOUS, a tendency towards sepiatone), the character design not as pleasing as Tardi would have made it but a long way from the unpleasantness of Besson’s silliy-putty fizzogs. But the story and the story world unite to create something really imaginative and fresh and appealing.

I liked the characters (just not the way the younger ones are drawn), who all have proper arcs and make something sweetly nostalgic out of their generic limitations. There are some good laughs. There’s a talking cat who may not be Jiji from KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE but is bloody excellent. Fiona was impressed by the anatomical exactitude of his rear elevation. Probably STEAMBOY will remain the ultimate in animated steampunk spectacle, and LAPUTA THE FLYING ISLAND the most truly wonderful, but this is quite a bit more quaint and charming — there’s an airship-powered funicular railway, ffs — the belt and braces approach to retro-futurist whimsy.

What allows it to be both charming and interesting is that the filmmakers know what we want and don’t want, and can skirt the edges of thr latter to keep it interesting. There are characters who, if they died, would really upset us. So the filmmakers threaten their lives and make us believe that they COULD die, there could be a less pleasing version but still acceptable version of the film where that happens. Whereas, the only thing that upset us was the destruction of the WALKING HOUSE, which was a house we adored and were ready to make an offer on.

Should work for kids and adults. Don’t know why it isn’t better known.

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Euphoria #22: In the middle of nowhere…

Posted in Comics, FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 18, 2008 by dcairns

Vincent Ranaldi, sci-fi and movie buff extraordinaire, suggests the opening journey from Hayao Miyazaki’s beautiful SPIRITED AWAY as a prime example of Cinema Euphoria, the gift that keeps on giving.

I was into this guy before anybody! Anybody in Edinburgh, anyway. Me and my friends were into him, anyway, thanks to Kiyoyuki Murakami, who was our fellow student at Edinburgh College of Art. Back around 1990, none of Miyazaki’s movies had been translated and released in the west, except for bad dubs of LAPUTA THE FLYING ISLAND and CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO (the standard-issue Japanime Cute Girl characters always sounded like Sunset  Strip hookers). Nobody had even heard of TOTORRO.

there goes the neighbourhood

Kiyo had VHS copies of most of Miyazaki’s work up to that point (PORCO ROSSO was the latest) and it was unbelievably amazing to us. I was blown away by the variations in pacing, unheard-of in American or European animation (VERY fast + VERY slow) and I loved Miyazaki’s skewed takes on British culture and landscapes (LAPUTA is purportedly inspired by Miyazaki’s visit to Yorkshire at the time of the ’80s miners’ strike, but to British audiences it’s still a bizarre Neverland). Simon Fraser, a cartoonist himself, as well as a film student, was captivated by the design as well as the storytelling.

Kiyo even produced episodes of LUPIN THE 3RD directed by Miyazaki, including one with a giant Spruce Goose aircraft that TRANSFORMS into an IRON GIANT, prefiguring the Ted Hughes Iron Man type robots from LAPUTA. (I’m guessing the title of that one, derived from Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, was altered to CASTLE IN THE SKY because the suits at Disney  realised that La Putais Spanish for “whore”). And there was really early stuff like PANDA KOPANDA, which is drawn in a completely different style from later Studio Ghibli stuff. The panda is a big friendly guy who sounds like an old wino.

wookie

None of this stuff had subtitles, so we coped with Kiyo’s minimalist live translations — as a Benshi film describer he was not quite as precise as David Wingrove, who is like a human babelfish converting European cinema into English as you watch — Kiyo would basically give a one-sentence summary of what had just passed in each scene. Miyazaki’s plots err towards the minimal and underexplained, so this was generally fine.

‘Why can’t Kiki fly anymore?’ we would ask.

‘Not, uh, really explained,’ said Kiyo.

So we would fall back on the stunning images to guide us.

The sense of place in H.M.’s films is always really strong. I’d love to visit the sparkling Mediterranean islands of PORCO ROSSO, the coastal town of KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE, and especially the decayed island in the sky from LAPUTA.

swift island

SPIRITED AWAY opens with smart character intros but also a great landscape and a Lewis-Carrollian journey from everyday norm to a World of Fantasy and Strange Peril. It’s this magic evocation of place and time and noplace and notime that I think made Vince choose this sequence out of all Miyazaki’s work.

Footnote: have people out there seen GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES? Isn’t it AMAZING?