Monday, November 22, 2010

My Neighbor Totoro


One of my big requests for my birthday was for Hayao Miyazaki films. It's hard to call myself a true animation fan with the knowledge that there are some Miyazaki films out there that I haven't seen. I've seen a few and I even own Spirited Away but there are plenty of his films that I don't own. So I asked my sister for Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro (pronounced Toto-row) and I was thrilled when she bought me both that one and Castle in the Sky.

My Neighbor Totoro is enchanting. It is a small elegant film about two young girls and their father who settling in rural Japan during the 1950s. The girl's mother is in the hospital suffering from tuberculosis. The family move into a wonderful old farmhouse filled with soot sprites, nice neighbors, and a nearby grove of trees. The trees are guarded by Totoro, a cat/bear/owl creature who never speaks but takes the girls on the most amazing journeys. Totoro protects the girls and the living things around him. When Mei, the younger, runs away, it is Totoro who helps to find her with the help of his friend the cat-bus. If that sounds fantastical, it is. The movie is a mix of quiet gentle moments, and almost psychedelic fantasy. The cat-bus in particular is a bit out there. But what I remember about the film isn't really the fantastic elements, but the gentle moments of beauty. Totoro is a wonderful creature, gentle and sweet. He is silly and playful and nurturing.

Life is quiet out in the rural world and the people are polite and thankful. I was touched by the politeness and gentility. People thank the gods for simple things, like when the girls are trapped in a small roadside shrine by a rainstorm. They both turn and bow to the roadside god with the simple plea that they be allowed to stay. It's a touching moment, filled with a humility that we don't see much anymore. I'm not particularly religious but I loved the constant mention of spirits and gods in this film. The family thanks the trees for protecting them. They attempt to appease the soot sprites, in order to get them to leave. The characters seem to respect the things around them.

There was no central plot with this movie. In fact there was very little action. Instead it was a collection of simple scenes but they all added up for me. I felt at peace after watching the film. And more than anything, I felt renewed.

4 comments:

Keith said...

Love My Neighbor Totoro. Love the Cat-bus. Love the quiet simplicity of the movie.

Did you see Toy Story 3? Did you notice the Totoro toy in it?

Cat B said...

I haven't seen Toy Story 3 yet. I've been meaning to pick it up on DVD but just haven't yet. That's wonderful that they put a Totoro toy in there. A great tribute to a master animator.

Have you seen more of Miyazaki's films?

V said...

If you like Miyazaki films, check out Satoshi Kon's work. Kon's films aren't for kids, but they are brilliantly plotted masterpieces with musical scores by my current favorite musician, Susumu Hirasawa. Maybe begin with Millennium Actress, then Paprika. Perfect Blue is creepy good. I haven't watched his television series yet. Another excellent film is Origin: Spirits of the Past.

Cat B said...

V,

Thanks for the suggestions. I haven't seen Kon's work before and I love well plotted films. I'll take a look and let you know what I think.

Thanks for the comment and thanks for reading.