Tonari No Totoro (My Neighbor Totoro)
Directed and Written by Hayao Miyazaki

The whimsy's there if that's your thing and there are days this is like a down blanket for me, something to keep warm in - - -that bus stop vignette and my wanting to play it over and over again as if looping would somehow enable me to cross over, there's no way you can break that down to a science, no way to peg why it works in the way it does, no way to do it again, not even Miyazaki himself tried. Could be the wet, shimmery palette's what makes it - - -and the whole piece ,really - - - so immersive, a kind of hush. Also the absence of anything going on in the usual sense of anything going on - - -two sisters billeted in a country house, their mother in a hospital and oh, next door lives a family of snuggly tree spirits that help them plant a tree, take them on a bus ride and later flying through the night. It's ambient, almost. The magic circle aura holds until you get the sense that the supernatural never overwhelms the natural, that there's a certainty to the creeping uncertainty in its peripheries- - -and you get it. Miyazaki would go on to do more ornate work - - - wiser, prettier,better. But what he nailed here that he won't nail again to such a degree is what Erice nailed in El Espiritu De La Colmena : that blinding headrush of what it's like to be a kid - - - and the sense of wonder and threat that come with it. And he nails it not because the magic he taps into makes those wisps of foreboding go away, like they do in neo-Disney mollycoddle. But precisely because it doesn't. * * * * *

Post Written for the Ghiblogathon.


Noel Vera said...

It's not just the whimsy, but the sadness, so delicate you can miss it completely. There's a layer of loss and suffering underneath all this, and the mother expresses it best: "I think she's much more sensitive than she seems." That's Miyazaki's pain, in a nutshell.

Arguably, this can be considered one of his best. I know peuple who rate it as such, anyway, and I respect their choice (mine would be an even earlier one, of course).

dodo dayao said...

That’s the first thing I took away from this when I first saw it ,Noel, that underlayer of sadness. And it's still the thing that stays with me.

Noel Vera said...

Check out Takahata, man. Not just the 900 pound gorilla (Fireflies), but his Pom Poko, Yamadas, and Only Yesterday.

dodo dayao said...

Oh, I've seen Pom Poko, just haven't gotten around to writing about it. Liked it. Will do on the others. I have a DVD of Only Yesterday at home. Yamadas I have to look for.

Noel Vera said...

I like Yamadas better than Edward Yang's Yi Yi. I prefer Takahata to Yang overall, I think.

dodo dayao said...

Really? I should check Yamadas out. I was quite taken with Yi Yi first time I saw it. Although I do remember not being able to go through it in one sitting, had to pause the DVD several times. I should watch it again. And RIP to Mr.Yang, too.