Despite watering eyes, a runny nose, a sick kitty and a kitty with several holes all over his body (Madu, MUST you get into catfights, you little beast?), a huge reading list and an occasionally balky writing project, La Casa de Los Gatos managed an impressive number of films watched this past week.
However, because we have a terrible weakness for truly bad films (the World o'Crap level of truly bad films), we're only going to review those we don't mind admitting to total strangers that we viewed.
Studio Ghibli's Whisper of the Heart, an utterly charming, heartwarming story about a little girl who wants to be a writer, and her parents, who support her ambition though they might not always understand. If you have a daughter or daughters, or even a secret ambition to write, you have to watch this movie. Apart from the fact that it's the usual range of fare from Studio Ghibli (in other words, bloody fantastic), the people behind this film really understand girls and women. They know how difficult it is for this little girl to feel empowered enough to chase her dream, instead of taking pride in her boyfriend's dreams.
Come to think of it, watch it even if you have a son/sons. It's worth every second.
Ozu Yasujiro's Tokyo Monogatari (Tokyo Story) is typical Ozu, atypical Japanese. The director seems to delight in films about highly personal, intimate, family relationships - marriage, siblings, parent-child relationships. A fondness for long, slow shots and a tendency to build up detail lead us to warn incautious viewers: these films are for people who are used to the three-hour buttbreakers that third world films usually manage to be. If you're not the type of person to enjoy Pather Panchali, you'll probly fall asleep halfway through Ozu.
We have to admit a great fondness for Ozu. However, we failed to take into account that fact that todos los gatos de mi Casa want to see things getting killed. Preferably quickly. Also, note to self: Do not schedule a whole goddamned Ozu retrospective. One can only watch so many lingering shots of white cotton blouses, or rolling sea waves, in one week.
Still, we liked this film.
Neko no Ongaeshi (The Cat Returns)
Directed by Morita Hiroyuki. This is a very sweet and amusing little film, preferably for young people, but despite our general old fartishness, we have no problem with this type of film. We thoroughly enjoyed the story of a little girl who rescues a cat who turns out to be The Prince of Cats, and whose father is grateful &mdash a little too grateful &mdash for the saving of his son.
The astute visitor has no doubt noticed, by now, that Casa de Los Gatos has a weakness for Japanese films, in addition to MST3K offerings and kids' anime. We apologize to no one. This was a particularly grim movie about the wane of the samurai class in Japanese history (after the Tokugawa and throughout the Meiji Restoration). The usual samurai swordfighting movies, which show a lone fighter overcoming hundreds of well-armed opponents has here been replaced by a stark and painful realism. Beautiful, if painful film. Two severed thumbs up.