Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ghibli Museum Films in Manhattan

Ghibli Forest Films

This past weekend, Carnegie Hall held a special screening of two of the eight short films that play in rotation at the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, near Tokyo, as part of the JapanNYC cultural festival. Normally, the only way to see these shorts is to go to the Ghibli Museum in person, so a trip to New York was clearly in order. The flier includes a rather stern indication that the Museum will not be able to entertain requests for more showings outside of Japan.

Carnegie's Zankel Hall.

Before the films started, John Lasseter of Pixar gave an introduction, talking about the small ways in which Ghibli has been trying to help with the aftermath of the Great Tohoku Earthquake, including showings of their movies at evacuation centers. The short films are apparently created in between motion picture projects, as a way for Hayao Miyazaki and crew to experiment with new techniques and concepts, which might or might not find their way into feature films.

JapanNYC program and earthquake addendum.

The films were excellent, as you might expect. First was the shorter Yado-sagashi (House Hunting), which was really experimental, with a simple visual style, and all sound and music done acapella by two voice actors, accompanied by manga-style sound effects moving around the screen. The story follows a city girl who takes a trip to the country, leaving offerings to appease the many nature spirits which she runs into along the way, including what looks a lot like a grizzled old Totoro.

Information on the films.

The second, and slightly longer at 15 minutes, film was Mizugumo Monmon (Mon Mon the Water Spider). This was more traditional Ghibli, with amazingly fluid animation and a fairly straightforward visual and narrative style. There's a silly but amusing story of a mopey water spider falling in love with a sleek water strider, but what stood out for me were the detailed tableux of microscopic living things in a pristine Japanese pond. Mon Mon is a really a beautifully-filmed nature special, in anime form.

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