The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

"Excellent"

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya Review


Like The Wind Rises, this Oscar-nominated Studio Ghibli animation is a proper cinematic epic, telling a sprawling story with artistry, invention and vivid characters that leave most Hollywood animated movies in the dust. It's based on a 10th century Japanese folktale that's packed with resonant themes, and it's been animated in a way that makes it look like a childhood storybook come to life. So even if it feels rather long at 2 hours 17 minutes, the visual minimalism is relentlessly beautiful.

The story begins in the countryside, where farmer Okina (James Caan in the English-language version) finds a tiny girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) in a bamboo stalk. Believing her to be a princess, he raises her with his wife Ouna (Mary Steenburgen). When he finds silk and gold in his bamboo grove, Okina decides that the gods want them to raise the now-teen girl in a more regal setting, so they all move to the capital, where she's officially named Princess Kaguya and becomes the most eligible girl in the kingdom, attracting offers from five wealthy men, plus His Majesty (Dean Cain) himself. But Kaguya is longing for the quieter life in the country, and misses her childhood pal Sutemaru (Darren Criss).

As it develops, the story becomes deeper and richer, offering hints as to where the events are headed, although nothing prepares us for the final-act sequence, which feels almost anachronistic in its surreally eclectic splendour. But by then, we have become completely engulfed in Kaguya's story, identifying with her longing to reconnect with the friends who used to call her "L'il Bamboo" because she grew up much more quickly than they did. This tension between sophisticated high society and rural simplicity adds an extra layer of meaning to the entire film, as does the running commentary about Japan's gender politics. And the hint of romance between Kaguya and Sutemaru offers further subversion of the social order.

Thankfully, all of this plays out with a remarkable lightness of touch, especially in the original Japanese language. And the imagery is simply uncanny, resembling pen and ink drawings that have been washed with watercolours. It's a feast for the eyes, while the story gets deep under the skin. So even if it some of the plot turns feel rather repetitive, and although the conclusion is a bit floaty and bizarre, the film is such an original experience that we feel like we've been taken somewhere utterly magical for a couple of hours. And we're not sure we want to come back to the real world afterwards.



The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Facts and Figures

Genre: Animation

Run time: 137 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 23rd November 2013

Box Office USA: $0.7M

Box Office Worldwide: $24.6M

Budget: $49.3M

Distributed by: GKIDS

Production compaines: Mitsubishi Shoji, Studio Ghibli, Dentsu, Hakuhodo DY Media Partners, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, KDDI Corporation, Toho, Nippon Television Network Corporation (NTV)

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Fresh: 62

IMDB: 8.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: Yoshiaki Nishimura, Seiichiro Ujiie

Starring: Aki Asakura as Princess Kaguya (voice), Kengo Kora as Sutemaru (voice), as The Bamboo Cutter's Wife (voice), Atsuko Takahata as Lady Sagami (voice), Tomoko Tabata as Menowarawa (voice), as The Minister of Culture (voice), Chloë Grace Moretz as Princess Kaguya (voice), as Sutemaru (voice), as The Bamboo Cutter (voice), as The Bamboo Cutter's Wife (voice), as Lady Sagami (voice), as Menowarawa (voice), as Inventory of Akita (voice), as Prince Ishitsukuri (voice), as The Mikado (voice), as Prince Kuramochi (voice), as The Minister of Finance (voice), as The Minister of the Military (voice), as The Minister of Culture (voice)

Also starring: ,

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

xXx: Return of Xander Cage Movie Review

xXx: Return of Xander Cage Movie Review

It's been 15 years since Vin Diesel walked away from his XXX role, killing off...

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

This may not be the cheeriest movie of the season, but it's so skilfully written,...

Live By Night Movie Review

Live By Night Movie Review

Ben Affleck launched his directing career 10 years ago with his film of Dennis Lehane's...

La La Land Movie Review

La La Land Movie Review

After storming awards season with Whiplash two years ago, writer-director Damien Chazelle returns with something...

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Hopes were high that this film might finally crack the curse of movies based on...

Advertisement
Silence Movie Review

Silence Movie Review

Faith is a topic Martin Scorsese can't quite shake, courting controversy with complex films like...

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A difficult movie to market, this isn't actually the BFG-style fantasy adventure it looks like....

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Word has it that a 4-year-old came up with the idea for this unapologetically silly...

Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Dramas exploring the nature of death and the true meaning of life are always in...

Paterson Movie Review

Paterson Movie Review

Unpredictable filmmaker Jim Jarmusch ricochets from his artful vampire movie Only Lovers Left Alive into...

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

At 80 years old, British filmmaker Ken Loach won his second Cannes Film Festival with...

Why Him? Movie Review

Why Him? Movie Review

Writer-director John Hamburg continues to recycle the formula that made his first hit Meet the...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.