My Neighbour Totoro (1988/2005) Dir. Hayao Miyazaki – 27th July at QFT Belfast (You can find films like this at LOVEFiLM)
Who’s in it? Dakota Fanning, Elle Fanning
What’s it about? Overflowing with an infectious sense of wonder brought to life by beautifully artful animation and grounded by warm, funny and thoughtful real-life observations, Japanese master animator Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away, Whisper of the Heart) – dubbed the Japanese Disney – indulges in the simple adventures of childhood as two young girls discover the spirit world in the forest around their father’s sleepy country cottage while their mother recuperates from an illness in hospital.
Look Who’s Talking: ‘…it would never have won its worldwide audience just because of its warm heart. It is also rich with human comedy in the way it observes the two remarkably convincing, lifelike little girls… It is a little sad, a little scary, a little surprising and a little informative, just like life itself. It depends on a situation instead of a plot, and suggests that the wonder of life and the resources of imagination supply all the adventure you need.’ – Roger Ebert
Memorable Moments? The two young sisters Satsuki and Mei are taken on a magical mystery tour of king Totoro’s spirit kingdom full of weird and wonderful creatures somehow grounded pleasantly in the real world, chief among which is the furry, purring Cat Bus replete with whiskers, cat’s eye headlights and a cheshire cat-like grin.
Like that? Try this: In The Cat Returns (2002) a young girl is transported to the cat kingdom and compelled by the cat king to marry his son after she saves his life on a busy street with her Lacrosse stick. A similarly magical studio Ghibli production of unusual charm, wonderfully adept at fostering the enchantment of a healthy imagination by giving the audience precisely the last thing it expects. A must for cat lovers!
Trivia Pursuit: The story of two girls caught between childhood innocence and a frightening grown up world is inspired by Miyazaki’s own experience of his mother suffering from Tuberculosis when he was a child and the effect it had on him and his brother.
This article first appeared in The Belfast Telegraph July 26th 2013