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422 out of 451 people found the following review useful:
An Amazing Achievement in Animation., 20 July 2004
Author: Le-Samourai from The Cinematic Archives
'Spirited Away' is the first Miyazaki I have seen, but from this
stupendous film I can tell he is a master storyteller. A hallmark of a
good storyteller is making the audience empathise or pull them into the
shoes of the central character. Miyazaki does this brilliantly in
'Spirited Away'. During the first fifteen minutes we have no idea what
is going on. Neither does the main character Chihiro. We discover the
world as Chihiro does and it's truly amazing to watch. But Miyazaki
doesn't seem to treat this world as something amazing. The world is
filmed just like our workaday world would. The inhabitants of the world
go about their daily business as usual as full with apathy as us normal
folks. Places and buildings are not greeted by towering establishing
shots and majestic music. The fact that this place is amazing doesn't
seem to concern Miyazaki.
What do however, are the characters. Miyazaki lingers upon the characters as if they were actors. He infixes his animated actors with such subtleties that I have never seen, even from animation giants Pixar. Twenty minutes into this film and I completely forgot these were animated characters; I started to care for them like they were living and breathing. Miyazaki treats the modest achievements of Chihiro with unashamed bombast. The uplifting scene where she cleanses the River God is accompanied by stirring music and is as exciting as watching gladiatorial combatants fight. Of course, by giving the audience developed characters to care about, the action and conflicts will always be more exciting, terrifying and uplifting than normal, generic action scenes.
Through Chihiro, Miyazaki is clearly (but non-patronisingly) talking to youth of Japan. There's a certain sense of revile about the youth of Japan at the moment. Many people consider them to be ill-mannered and baring no respect for their elders or their forefathers. They are simply bi-products of their material world and consumerism. 'Spirited Away' taps into this. At the start Chihiro is a selfish, spoiled, whiny brat. But as she plunges deeper into the spirit world, she becomes more independent, more assured, more respectful and learns some manners. No Face, a black figure with a white mask, is the catalyst behind Chihiro's transformation. Once he is let into the bathhouse, we are no longer tourists the story propels forth. Watching No Face prey on the greed of the workers is a terrifying delight. The three main characters in Miyazaki's youth allegory are Chihiro, No Face and Bô. All of these characters are disconnected with their world. They are lonely, misunderstood and largely ignored. But when they go on their journey together, they united and become stronger individuals.
Miyazaki also talks about the ecology of Japan. What was once a beautiful; grassland has now turned into the Asian New York. That The Last Samurai had to be filmed in New Zealand to get a turn of the century Japanese look speaks volumes. The River God sequence is an unsubtle but unpretentious commentary on pollution. While these two themes are very much current in Japan, they are also universal themes which makes 'Spirited Away' a universal story that most of us can connect with. I'm willing to bet everyone reading this has at some time seen bicycles lying on a lake bed or have had a child talk to them disrespectfully. Sure these themes aren't advanced philosophy. They are everyday issues told in an inventive, fun way.
The animation is wonderful, if not as smooth as Disney's works but there's something superior to that. 'Spirited Away's imperfect, but detailed world is far more fascinating than the perfected blandest of Disney's latest offerings. The animators successfully balanced the tight-rope between not-enough animation on characters and too much animation on characters. No Ralph Balski ADD antics here! The film is full of vivid images both beautiful and horrifying. The line between those two extremes is crossed over seamlessly. From Chihiro and Haku running through an opening flower field to Haku's dragon snarling with a bloody mouth, both extremes seem to belong in the film. It's also excellently done with the characters. Kamaji can be seen as a scary, daunting figure at the beginning, but soon he seamlessly changes into a humble, wise figure. Yubaba also seems to be able to turn from kind to witch with the snap of a finger.
The sound on the film was expertly done. The sounds perfectly match the on screen actions and objects. My sub woofer got a wonderful workout when Haku swoops Chihiro past the bridge at the beginning. And while I don't speak Japanese, I think the voice actors did a wonderful job of conveying their personality and emotions true their voice. Joe Hisaishi's music is sublime, definitely one of my favourite scores. His main piano theme is simple and evocative. His thunderous action music hits the viewers on the chest like a hammer. Like all great scores it heightens the greatness of a scene about three times. The score, unlike many American composers', is unobtrusive. It plays excellently with the scenes, but never overbears them. A lot of the time the it is barely noticeable, a sole piano plays softly in the background evoking a dreamlike/lullaby quality.
'Spirited Away' is a simply a modern masterpiece, easily one of the Top 10 films of the new millennium. It works on a multitude of levels; a social commentary on Japan, a homage to ancient Japanese/Russian mythology, a moral film for both children and adults. But most importantly, it is a simple story brilliantly told by a great filmmaker who appears to be at the top of his game. 'Spirited Away' works much like a relaxing journey. Pop in the DVD; leave this world for two hours and when you will be almost certainly enriched and ready to take the trip again.
304 out of 341 people found the following review useful:
A stunning, intoxicating, magical masterpiece., 4 November 2002
Author: soma_001 from Melbourne, Australia
There is simply no denying that Miyazaki is the Godfather of
Japanese Animation, time and time again delivering unto the
public works of such incredible beauty, such stunning visual and
sensory delights, such mastery of storytelling, that one can only be
left speechless. Overwhelmed. Intoxicated with wonder. Such is
the magic of Spirited Away.
Much like Miyazaki's previous feature Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away is an epic fairytale fantasy that deserves no better medium than the stunning animation work of Studio Ghibli. This multiple award-winning masterpiece has grown to become the largest grossing film in Japanese history, and rightly so. From the moment our child heroine Chihiro enters the bath houses we are literally bombarded with an overwhelming sense of detail and rich, lavish colours rarely - if ever - seen in western animation. Scenes such as Chihiro running through the field of flowers, the marvellous landscapes seen from the train, Haku and Chihiro soaring the skies above, and Chihiro running across the pipe to climb the walls of the bath house are nothing short of breathtaking, and undoubtably some of the most lavish animation ever to hit the screen.
The world of Spirited Away is simply bustling with life; unique, quirky, instantly lovable creatures jostling about their daily activities and tasks in the bath houses, dancing across the screen like leaves caught in a playful summer breeze. The inventiveness of Miyazaki's character designs, much like in Mononoke, is wonderful to behold, in fact not since classic tales like Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland and The Neverending Story have we been able to fall hopelessly in love with such original, quirky, magical, even fantastical characters. The viewer is plunged headfirst into another world for nearly two hours and one cannot help but be completely and utterly captivated.
The music and original score is stunningly beautiful, the original Japanese language track of such high quality that one wonders why someone could insult the work by producing a dub track at all. With a plot differing in its complexity on so many levels, from the basic storyline, to the omnipresent universal themes, to the riddling of Japanese history and fable throughout, children and adults alike will be mesmerised from start to end. A magical, awe-inspiring, tearful, laughter-filled, heartfelt journey through a land of sweeping fantasy and dreams.
Prepare to be Spirited Away........................
347 out of 432 people found the following review useful:
Dub or sub?, 18 October 2004
Author: Balibari from London
Last year I saw Spirited Away on it's UK release. I've never been a
particular fan of anime, and it didn't really occur to me that I was
watching a foreign language film dubbed into English (or 'American'). I
can't imagine seeing a live action foreign language film dubbed into
another language, but hey, this is a kids cartoon, what does it matter?
Up to a point it didn't, because I loved the film. I enjoyed it so much
I set about digging up the Studio Ghibli/Miyazaki back catalogue, in
the process Sprited Away was filed away as one of the lesser Ghibli's -
still great, but compared to Laputa, Grave of the Fireflies and a few
others, it seemed a little weak.
BUT... I recently re-watched it on DVD with the subtitles and found the difference unbelievable. The film came alive like the other Miyazaki's I've seen. It seemed infinitely more layered, detailed, intelligent and witty than I remembered. Could it be that retaining the intended performances (even if the words are unintelligible) can make that much difference? Maybe the dub was just poorly done? Or was it just because I was now versed in the language of Ghibli? As a little experiment I decided to re-watch some of the film with both the English subtitles and English language dub in order to compare, I ended watching the whole thing out of morbid fascination. It's simply amazing what a difference there is. Entire scenes change. It's not just that subtle emphasis is shifted or the same points are made in a different manner - in the dub, the subject of whole conversations and scenes are changed, and often to some flat and uninteresting hokum. Relationships between characters are changed, their motivations and personalities are changed, the difference is shocking.
I appreciate western, and particularly American audiences can be put off by subtitles. And cinemas are less likely to show the film anyway. It's pointless to be all righteous when, fundamentally, you just want people to see the film. Unless they do, this treasure trove will remain undiscovered, and maybe finding it will encourage people to conquer the 'subtitle demon' (as Miyazaki might call him). But the problem is the quality of these dubs, and the liberties taken with the source material. Of course, without speaking Japanese, who can say it's not the subtitles that are way off? They're probably written by westerners too. But the dub just stinks of Disneyfication. Saturday morning generic nonsense. The challenging, uncompromising and emotionally ambitious nature of the film is severely watered down.
A fair question might be, 'if it's so bad why was it so successful?' The success is evidence of the films staggering quality. Even so, it hardly challenged whatever Jerry Bruckheimer movie was showing at the time. In Japan it's the biggest grossing film in history. 'Go figure,' as Chihiro wouldn't say.
298 out of 385 people found the following review useful:
I disagree with Gazzer-2, 12 January 2005
Author: sailvane-1 from Melbourne, Australia
Actually I dislike his or her comments badly. If you didn't get it
watch it again. This is not a piece to just entertain, the creator has
put his own feeling and I believe life experience and the fear always
buried in children's mind into it. It is a comely tale that express the
creator's thoughts in some way, whilst shining as a attractive
animation piece with so many details that you might have ignore if you
were careless. It is a rich story and I can see the efforts creators
put into it in many spots and frames.
e.g. While Chihiro was walking towards the garden where Haku told her to meet him, she passed some stairs where she can see an island, there are some house on it, she stopped for it for a little while, that, represents her longing to human world, her own world, this kind of details can be ignored by many people but they don't mind putting it in to make the whole story richer, more truthful, full of power of humanity.
Apart from that, did you ever notice that some "camera language" was used very well to tell the story in a more entertaining and better pace.e.g. When Kamaji was telling Chihiro how Haku turned up to this world before just like what she did, the "camera" panned to where the little rat(changed from the fat baby)was showing off to soots by putting his foot into the spell melted print while Kamaji's introduction about Haku's background is also getting across to the audience. This is just one of the details that shows how much story telling skills and rhythm control of plots.
There're many other things like this, shouldn't be ignored if you want to make a nice comment, even though as an American viewer you might miss a lot of the story by lack of the culture background, but that's not the reason that you can comment it as anyway you want without even really READ the film.
I am a visual effects person and film maker but I can't tell where the jerking of the footage and the stopping of character's movement are in the film. could Gazzer please enlighten us? As also a fan of Pixar I hope I don't have bias on either American animations or Japanese ones, but as a Chinese who might have some resistance towards Japanese products for national esteem or historic reason, I still admires Ghibli Studio's work. "Spirited Away" is a masterpiece of elegant picture and touching story, if Gazzer-2 knows what that means.
"Ice Age" was a pretty cute one of Fox productions, but not good enough to compete with "Spirited Away" I'm afraid. And I'd laugh at the opinion that the story of "Ice Age" is much simpler hence Oscar committee didn't recognise it, actually I believe "Spirited Away" was beautifully hand-painted frame by frame while "Ice Age" had a giant crew in 3d animation and visual effects. I'm afraid Ice Age was the much more complicated one.
194 out of 218 people found the following review useful:
Mystical, engaging, wonderful!, 16 October 2002
Author: Vapaja from Florida, USA
Spirited Away is one of the most perfect movies I have ever seen. The
I can say about it is that there was not a single moment during it that my
attention wasn't completely focused. The plot was fantastic and
Each character was given so much personality, even the little soot spiders
weren't treated as two-dimensional.
In a way the whole film felt like a dream, in that it is seamless. It flows, effortlessly, from scene to scene, from emotion to emotion - straight from terror and tragedy to comedy - without the subtle bump that wakes you up, that lets you know that the makers of the movie and the creator of the script had wanted you to be crying but now you really should be laughing. It was so LIFELIKE. Sometimes in real life the most grim moments contain honest elements of comedy that do not seem out-of-place. But trying to put that sort of convoluted emotion into a film creates a very thin line that too many have fallen off of.
There was no part of the film that felt fake, or rushed, or shaky; the intensity of the story line and the determination of the lead character was obvious throughout. More than causing interest, this movie made me FEEL. I was sucked into the drama. I can rarely say that a movie made me laugh and cry without feeling like an idiot, but the caliber of this picture is so high that I don't even feel embarrassed. I laughed. I cried. And you will too.
144 out of 176 people found the following review useful:
better than Disney by a long shot, 11 October 2004
Author: minimeltheminx from Australia
I really enjoyed this film-everything about it glows and shines in a
gentle luminosity. This film, if you have seen some of Miyazaki's other
work, is quite light. The characters are beautifully and lovingly
created and the colouring and setting of this film is absolutely
superb. This is a beautiful little film and I can't wait for the next
feature from Hayao Miyazaki-he is better than Walt Disney.
Miyazaki blends the characters and the environment very well together, and I can see that this would be enjoyed for people at many different levels. Miyazaki enjoys creating female heroines and I was pleased that Chihiro lived up to the expression and beauty of her predecessors-like Nausicaa from the Valley of the Wind. This is beautiful and I would advise anyone to take a look at it's scope and serenity, along with it's fast paced plot and of course, the dreamlike settings that make it truly wonderful.
124 out of 144 people found the following review useful:
Best animated film I have seen!, 2 April 2004
Author: Thomas Jolliffe (supertom-3) from Marlow, England
This is a wonderfully imaginative and fantastical children's fantasy. It is
easy to see why it was perhaps the critical hit of 2002. The film is
glorious to look at. It is a testament to old fashioned animation techniques
that seem to be resigned to foreign animations. Of course there is some use
of computer imagery for certain shots but they blend seamlessly and the
overall artistry involved is superlative.
This is the first Hayao Miyazaki film I have seen and I will certainly watch his others. The story plays on many elements successful with kids films, that transport you back to your own childhood and also allows the young audience to connect with the themes in the movie too. The story centres around Chihiro, a young girl about to move into a new place and who feels insecure about the new environment she will be living in. These fears become a part of her encounter with a strange abandoned amusement park that she and her parents find when they reach a dead end in their car. At the park they find that their is a stall that is seemingly open, with glorious displays of mouth watering food. There are no people about but Chihiros parents decide to gorge themselves on this bounty and pay later. As Chihioro explores she comes across a strange boy who warns her to get out before dark. It is too late however, because as night falls, ghosts are awakened, and then by the time she gets back to her parents they are turned into pigs. She then finds that the route she came from is gone and she is now trapped in this place, her only allie being the boy she met earlier. She is told to get a job at the centre piece of the park, a bath house run by Yubaba, an evil power mad witch. This is a bath house for the spirits and Chihiro has to find a job there before she is found and turned into an animal herself, then unable to save her parents.
The story is imaginative and the characters and animations endlessly unique and strange. This is just so much more creative than Hollywood. The characters are likeable and we become engrossed with Chihiros adventures inside this bathhouse, and the characters she comes into contact with as she tries to get her parents back as humans and whilst trying to get back to the human world. What I also loved in this film is that the animation gives it a real sense of cinematography, the drawing makes the film stand out in a way that American animations rarely do. Another film I think of that looked really good was Bellville Rendezvous. Another great point in fact the best part of it, is the fantastic score. It really is uplifting and very original. This is just great film making. *****
137 out of 174 people found the following review useful:
A Fantastic Film (most literally), 4 October 2002
Author: kraley (email@example.com) from Houston, TX
Good morning. Last night I was able to catch the Disney US
Release of Spirited Away ( originally The Spiriting Away of Sen and
Chihiro). This is another Disney purchase of a Japanese hit. For
those that don't know, Disney has a nasty habit of importing titles
from Japan and then changing the story when dubbing films or
creatively editing the endings or plot to "suit American audiences".
Personally I think that's a travesty.
So whenever you go see the Disney release
of a foreign film, realize the film you are watching may not be the
'same film' the rest of the world sees.
OK, that aside, was it a good film? I deliberately did no research before seeing this film as I prefer to go into films with little or no expectations. All I knew was that the film was directed and written by Hayao Miyazaki, the same man responsible for Princess Mononoke ( a film released a few years back that I also enjoyed). In the case of Spirited away, I'm glad I did not know what I was getting myself into, otherwise I might not have come (and surprisingly, not for the reasons you likely assume).
The film concerns a young girl and her parents who find an odd tunnel in the side of a hill while moving to their new home. Upon investigating the tunnel, they find a strange "theme park" on the other side devoid of inhabitants. Upon investigating the theme park, things are obviously very "wrong" (at least to the little girl- her parents seem woefully oblivious) and as it gets closer to sunset, things just get worse. Unfortunately, this is all the plot I am able to reveal without spoiling the uniqueness of this film.
This is an 'adult-oriented' movie. It has some rather disturbing images and ranks among the weirdest films I have seen in my life. It's a bizarre amalgam of Wizard of Oz,The Neverending Story, Alice in Wonderland, My Friend Totoro, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The City of Lost Children (just to name a few). This film is interesting from beginning to end even though the plot advances rather slowly. There is always some new thing to see or some truly bizarre thing to witness. The animation is above average but not as impressive as Mononoke (and even features several gratuitous CGI sequences).
There is a great story and some great humor. I laughed more in this film than I have at any Hollywood 'comedy' in the last 5 years (and Spirited Away is not a comedy, it just has several good comedic breaks). No nudity. No Profanity. No 'gratuitous' violence. Some rather disturbing scenes of characters getting eaten alive (and some threats thereof) but even the eaten characters return unharmed later in the film.
This is not really a 'family film' (and definitely NOT a "kiddee film") but it is something you can take the whole family to. Smaller children will not understand the story, but they'll like the visuals and enjoy the humor. Mid-teens might be a bit "weirded out" by the subject matter and the visuals and older teens and adults may be too jaded by American cinema to enjoy the film for what it is- a lavish fairytale from a foreign country. This film runs about 2 hours so leave the "kidney-buster" sodas at the snack bar. If you have to take a bathroom break, you WILL miss something and I assure you no friend nor helpful audience member will likely be able to adequately convey what it is you DID just miss.
If you enjoy Anime or the bizarre, make an effort to see this film. Even if you don't normally like "cartoon movies", you might give this one a chance. It is not a 'casual moviegoer' film by any means and does rely on some thought from the audience to enjoy it. It will also likely be the oddest film you'll see this decade and you'll be sure to remember this film long after all the other 'disposable movies' have faded from your recollection. This film is receiving almost no advertising. I didn't even know it existed until I saw the poster tucked away in a corner at the theatre earlier this week. I hope Disney puts a little more effort into advertising this film's release because it is truly an original film and worthy of a large audience. Hopefully positive word-of-mouth will get this film the attendance it deserves.
108 out of 134 people found the following review useful:
Mystical and enchanting. A key to another world., 10 September 2004
Author: Mitchel H (firstname.lastname@example.org) from U.S.A
Mystical. Enchanting. A key to another world. There are so many ways to describe this movie. The movie focuses on a young girl who is trapped in a sort of "spirit world". When her mother and father are turned into pigs, young Chihiro has to save her parents before they're cooked and eaten. It may sound silly, but this tale has more to it than farm animals. When Chihiro is frightened, she runs off. When a boy finds her, he tells her that she must get a job at "The Bath House". A sort of retreat for spirits. But to do this, she must speak with Yubaba. The witch who rules The Bathhouse. After Yubaba agrees to give Chihiro some work. She takes her name away from her. And she is then called "Sen". While shes at the bath house, she is put under very hard work. I could say more, but that would be foolish of me. This is a great movie that I think people of all ages should see for themselves. Its an enchanting and heartwarming story that I've watched over and over again and have never gotten sick of it. It has been another inspiring movie from Haiyo Miazaki that is above all his best yet. A 10 out of 10 for this wonderful movie.
118 out of 170 people found the following review useful:
Better in the Original Japanese Soundtrack, 25 May 2004
Author: ehy2k from New England
The art work alone is worthy of the engulfment one experiences when watching
the big screen, making me wish I had seen it on the big screen. That is,
unless the major release in the US was the English language version.
We ended up renting the DVD and watching it in English. The sound, the voice of Chihiro in particular, grated our ears like nails on a chalk board. After watching it, we played around with the DVD and found the original Japanese soundtrack with English subtitles. Far more subtle and simply put, an AMAZING difference.
So, I would suggest watching it in both languages. English so that you can concentrate on the scenery (with the sound turned down low. Really, the screeching and shouting in English is annoying). Then watch it in Japanese for the color and mood the dialog provides.
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