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Mount Head (2002)
"Atama-yama" (original title)

7.0
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A miserly man eats the pits of some cherries he can't stand throwing out. A tree starts growing from the top of his head. He cuts it off; it grows back. After a while, he gives up and lets ... See full summary »

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 4 wins. See more awards »

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Takeharu Kunimoto ...
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Storyline

A miserly man eats the pits of some cherries he can't stand throwing out. A tree starts growing from the top of his head. He cuts it off; it grows back. After a while, he gives up and lets it grow, but the crowds that gather on top of his head to enjoy the tree (and leave huge mounds of trash) eventually drive him to uproot the tree. This leaves a crater on top of his head, which fills with water, which becomes a popular lake. Written by Jon Reeves <jreeves@imdb.com>

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Plot Keywords:

head | cherry | greed | folk tale


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January 2004 (USA)  »

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Mountain Head  »

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Artistically brilliant, philosophically awful
12 July 2006 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

Here's a feast for the eyes that will give you indigestion. Once in a while a work of art will come along that is so appealing to the senses, yet its theme is flawed. Let's talk about the flaws first.

The story attempts to tell a moral tale of greed and its hazards; however it fails to distinguish between "greed" and "punctiliousness". The protagonist of the story is a punctilious man; he notices everything; he recycles things that everyone else throws away. He despises waste and tries to find a use for everything. I equate this to the Native American Indian who kills an animal and finds a use for every last bone & sinew.

The fable then focuses on the greedy; those who rape & ravage for their selfish and wasteful purposes. I would equate this to the modern American hunter who kills a deer, takes the tender meat and dumps the majority of the carcass on the side of the road (try driving through Montana, and you'll see what I mean).

This film fails to make the important distinction between the two. Both the former and the latter are lumped into the same category. And as a result, the central theme is invalid.

The protagonist's only flaw (the act for which he is punished) occurs in the very beginning when he gathers cherries from the sidewalk and eats them. Not wishing to waste the seeds, he eats them too. Folks, is this "greed"? Far from it. But apparently the writer thinks it is. Apparently the writer feels that we should waste fallen cherries and instead go buy them at the supermarket. And we should trash everything but the savory part. I wonder how the writer would feel about recycling aluminum, paper and plastic.

OK, that's the philosophical critique. Now on to the artistic. From the opening scenes this blew me away. The style is unlike any other animation I've seen. The artist/director paid close attention to perspective, perception and visual angles. The result is that the viewer is truly drawn into this cartoon world as if it were reality. There's nothing bubble-gummy about this. You feel like you're standing right inside the room with the man (and often you are placed within the eyes of the man himself).

The music (traditional Japanese) is quite good, but you must have a taste for this "weird" sort of stuff. Be prepared to hear the narrator sing his lines with thick tenor vibrato whilst accompanied by a twangy instrument that sounds something like a banjo with 3 strings. Personally I loved it.

I am extremely impressed with the artistic side, but that only intensifies my disgust at the rather vapid and undevelopped theme underneath it. As a result I must average my artistic rating (10 stars) with my thematic rating (4 stars) and give it an overall 7.

Watch it if you get a chance. Then post back whether you agree or disagree with what I've said here.


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