Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 in Film: The Secret of Arrietty

I'll just go ahead and apologize for this one from the start; I haven't got anything to say about Studio Ghibli's movie from this year. The absolute best I can come up with is lazy shit like "the animation was good but the design, I felt, was a bit lacking," or "a solid story, and well enough told, but lacking something indefinable."

Arrietty was good but not great, and so on and so on. I don't know though. I have always had a weird relationship to Ghibli films; Ponyo didn't really do it for me, and I never quite got how Spirited Away was a masterpiece, though I do love it. But I fucking lived and breathed Totoro growing up, and Mononoke was like a kick in the head for me in the best possible way. Even those, though, don't have any nostalgic power; I just think that Totoro is still a wonderful movie that I associate with my childhood only in the most abstract fashion, and I've never even bothered rewatching Mononoke.

I can say that there is a lot to recommend in the premise of Arrietty, with its promise to defamiliarize the space that I am, probably above all others, invested in theoretically -- the house, by way of presenting it at a radically changed scale. And I vaguely recall that there was at least one scene that seemed to do that. But then, I don't know, almost a year on I have a hard time thinking back to whether there was any real impact there.

Ghibli films are, to really blithely overreach, almost always about some sort of break within the family, I think, the consequences of which play out within the frame, and the resolution of which is rarely their reconstitution into a nice nuclear whole, which I do like. I can’t quite remember if Shawn’s impending death was ever referred to explicitly, or whether they backed away from it at the end, but it seemed to me to be obvious that the film was very much about the death of a kid.

Which is, I suppose, maybe the core of my lack of enthusiasm for this movie. There did seem to be something that everything was "about," a broad thematic towards which each moment of the film seemed to be referring. Which isn’t to say that’s a bad thing, necessarily, just not one that I find particularly compelling. Especially when those themes roughly corresponded to abstractions of friendship and personal responsibility.

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