Eiri, a talented art student, works part-time in an antique shop in a quiet part of town. One afternoon, he uncovers a delicate Venetian glass that holds a startling secret. When Eiri peers...
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Eiri, a talented art student, works part-time in an antique shop in a quiet part of town. One afternoon, he uncovers a delicate Venetian glass that holds a startling secret. When Eiri peers into the glass, he can see a young blond girl, her life playing out like a movie solely for him to see. Curious, he stares into the glass, hoping to learn more about the enchanting girl inside. She is Cossette, a mysterious beauty who haunts the glass, waiting 250 years for someone to finally see her, and set her free. Eiri is soon obsessed with Cossette, determined to do anything he can to help her. Will Eiri see past all the illusions and discover the tragic truth about Cossette, or will he be consumed by anguish and obsession? Written by
Technically, it's a 3-episode OVA ("Original Video Animation"), with each segment lasting around 35 minutes. But since the sum of these 3 parts is basically the length of a feature film, one could be forgiven for treating it as such. And that's what I do. I consider this a feature film. So here's the plot synopsis: A young man uncovers a delicate Venetian glass that holds a startling secret within: a haunted beauty, named Cossette, has been waiting 250 years for someone to set her spirit free. The man soon becomes obsessed and determined to help the girl trapped inside the crystal, but the necessary physical and psychological sacrifices might be too great for him to bear.
The first thing I want to point out: this film is one of the most visually stunning anime I've ever seen. Virtually every single frame is saturated with fantastical Gothic eye candy. The use of color is real treat for the eyes, and there's a wide variety of color schemes that are used. It really has a beautiful mix and keeps changing things up, which means that the viewer will be constantly mesmerized by its presentation. This is supplemented by two creative choices: (First) The protagonist is transported via the Venetian glass into a nightmarish world. This allows the filmmakers to go "all out" on the visuals. (Second) The environments and old school architecture designs are very cool to behold. There are a few flashbacks set in the real world that have a European vibe to them. And many of the "nightmare world" sequences showcase otherworldly objects and phenomena. All of these things come together to create a fantastic visual experience.
As if that weren't enough, the scoring is just as phenomenal. Some beautiful music is composed for this film. To describe it, it's very romantic, magical, and mysterious. Piano and violin are used quite a bit. The music of "Petite Cossette" is a true accomplishment that should be mentioned more often when people talk about their favorite anime music. The official soundtrack is widely available and I highly recommend you pick up a copy. I have it and listen to it a lot.
But the positives of "Petite Cossette" are not limited to its visual and audio qualities, because the characters and story are fascinating. Cossette's spirit is basically cursed, because in order to release her from that curse, she needs a human being who is willing to endure the pain and suffering that should have befallen her murderer. So in Christ-like fashion, a man must willingly endure this reckoning in order for Cossette to be redeemed. But, in some sense Cossette herself is emotionally conflicted with this scenario because she doesn't want to see someone she cares for suffer to such a degree. So their relationship is very interesting. Also, there is a dense romantic tone that mirrors the horror. I'm a huge fan when romance and horror are expertly blended together, and this movie is one emphatic example. The themes of love, sacrifice, and haunted imagery are blended together, because painting and artistry are introduced and become very important themes in their own right. As one online reviewer noted (I believe it was EyeforFilm.uk), "The result is a creepy riff on beauty, love, the madness of artists, and the treachery of images." That sums things up nicely.
There's one aspect to this film that could prove frustrating for some viewers. There is some surreal imagery that may confuse you. The script intentionally keeps the viewer off balance with events that may not be easily interpreted during a first viewing. I say this because there are some moviegoers who need everything explained thoroughly, with no ambiguity or open ends. If you're one of those people, this film may frustrate you at times. Nevertheless, the general course of events is very easy to understand. It's just that there are some scenes that will require some effort from the viewer to interpret the details.
In my opinion, Le Portrait de Petite Cossette qualifies as a work of art, and it's one of my favorite anime films of all time. Most fortunately, it is widely available on DVD. So be sure to watch it, if you don't mind some disturbing imagery and ambiguity to steer thru.
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