You will not have expected to find me in the centre of town screaming at the luvvies, at least I hope not; here you will find the unusual, the bizarre, the delightful – all undistributed films from foreign countries. Some appear in the festivals and disappear without trace, others appear after two or three years and just occasionally they come to a screen near you.
These are the films I have chosen, by my own quixotic and strange methods.
Today it was a new film by the Ghibli Studios in a unique partnership with a London based director, Michael Dudok de Wit. An animé of exquisite quality. Michael Dudok de Wit is better known for his short films, for which he has won many awards, this is his first feature film, it comes into the JOURNEY Section – “whether it is the journey or the destination these are films to transport you”. The Red Turtle most certainly did that.
The film opens with a huge sea storm, and we see struggling in the gigantic waves, a small figure. What is so captivating about the Ghibli Studio productions is the visionary quality of the drawing and colouring, in this film by Isao Takahata, all the way through this film one is repeatedly astonished at the painted effects, the subtle changes in the waves, the sea, the sky and the island.
The story does not end with the storm, obviously. Our man is next seen collapsed on a sandy beach, eyed up by a sand crab who, climbing up his trouser leg, awakens him; later he is disturbed by the sudden hatching of some little green turtles who climb out of the sand and struggle down to the sea. This island is without doubt wondrously uninhabited, birds shriek and twitter, and insects crawl around but there is no sign of human habitation.
Our little man makes several attempts to escape, but each time he fails…ultimately, another creature arrives on the island and here the story turns.
It would be foolish to say more because it would become a spoiler. I recommend this film which is a study in several multi-layered ways, the environment not the least of the messages that it contains; there are, during the film, several events that demonstrate the power of nature, and the extraordinary breath-taking draughtsmanship of the Ghibli Studio is at full stretch throughout this film in sequences both under water and on land. The musical score too, by Laurent Perez del Mar, fulfils all expectations and brilliantly conveys everything that one needs to know in this otherwise dialogue free film.
My second film today was Woody Allen‘s Manhattan. This film belongs in the LOVE category and is one of several “Treasures of the Cinema” that I am seeing this year. Made in 1979, it is still gorgeously funny, quirky and witty. The audience tonight comprised lots of people my age who probably saw it when it was new, and equally very many young people who were, I guess, seeing it for the first time. The spectacular cast list, with Woody Allen (of course), Diane Keaton, Mariel Hemingway and a very young Meryl Streep never fails to impress.
I think everyone knows that this is a hymn of love to New York, the opening sequences with Woody Allen’s voiceover trying to describe what he loves about the city for a new book, is memorable and delightful; landmarks flash by and the streets are crowded with people, then the city darkens and the buildings light up and there is a fabulous firework display – all to Rhapsody in Blue. There is lots of music as the story rolls on, it is a rewarding film to see again, and again – each time there are more things to notice and remember, it seems more romantic and just as funny.
Rewarding too because of the current Georgia O’Keefe exhibition at Tate Modern, with its emphasis on the Alfred Stieglitz connection.
All together, a great first night.