The sight of the Studio Ghibli logo, featuring rotund Totoro from studio co-founder Hayao Miyazaki’s “My Neighbor Totoro,” is as reassuring to cinephiles as the Beatles’ Apple logo is to music geeks. It assures the viewer that the animated film to follow will be marked by ambition and beauty.
Happily, in recent years, the Japanese studio’s works have grown increasingly popular, as evidenced by the North Park Theatre’s successful “Studio Ghibli chalking contest,” which saw chalk-drawn Totoros lining Hertel.
One of this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Animated Feature, Studio Ghibli’s “The Tale of Princess Kaguya,” is the next weekend matinee at the North Park. The (recommended) subtitled version screens at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, and the English-dubbed version screens at 11:30 a.m. Sunday.
“Princess Kaguya” is exquisite. Directed by Isao Takahata and based on the folktale “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter,” it is the moving story of a girl found inside a stalk of bamboo by an old bamboo cutter and his wife. She grows into a beautiful but somber young woman romantically pursued by five nobles.
It is an often funny, warm story, but it also is one touched by sadness. Like Studio Ghibli’s finest films, there is a melancholy air to the proceedings, and a complexity not often found in animated features.
This is an animated masterpiece, and a film not to be missed. Note that the dubbed version features the voices of Chloë Grace Moretz, James Caan, Mary Steenburgen and James Marsden, among others. (I have only seen the subtitled version, which I would call the preferable choice.) The film is rated PG for thematic elements and some violent moments; I would call it appropriate for most preteens. For more info, visit www.northparktheatre.org.
– Christopher Schobert