Monday, April 30, 2012

Guest Review: Ponyo (Hayao Miyazaki, 2008)

This is a guest post from my good friend Dominique, who has contributed to my site in the past with her fantastic review of Roman Holiday, and I hope will continue to contribute in the future. As I was nearing the end of Ghibli month, and had a lot on my plate, I asked Dominique to share her thoughts on Ponyo, one of several Ghibli film I still am still yet to see. I thank her for taking the time to construct a review. I hope you all enjoy it.

I owe a great deal to Ponyo.  It was this film – the innocent tale of a friendship forged between a little boy and a “goldfish” – that first introduced me to the wonderful, mystical; and phantasmagorical world of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli.

As it was the first Miyazaki film I had the privilege to see, Ponyo remains a film that I hold in high esteem, although I’ll admit that after having gone on to see such creative masterpieces as Spirited Away or Howl’s Moving Castle, I don’t consider it to be my ‘favourite’ – if we can speak in such simplistic terms – of Miyazaki’s works.

I was a child that grew up watching the Disney animated classics, of which Snow White and Pinocchio stand out as the two defining films of my toddler years.  My use of the word “defining” is crucial here as for me, Disney came to define the animated genre and consequently, for years I never really wanted to explore/entertain the possibility that there existed anything beyond that ‘wonderful world’ of technicolour dreams and fairytales with happy endings.  With time and age however, that light dusting of Tinkerbell’s pixie stardust, which had held me and sustained me for so long, began to wear off, leaving me open and keen to explore the cinema of Miyazaki, his fellow Studio Ghibli practitioners; and other masters of the genre, like Frenchman Sylvain Chomet of Triplets of Belleville fame.

It strikes me that this is precisely what Ponyo is all about: Miyazaki calls on us all to be open to anything life may throw at us, even if it means risking the balance of the universe to achieve the desired outcome.  In the end, the friendship forged between Ponyo and Sosuke is a testament to their strength and persistence against those who deemed theirs an impossible; improbable companionship (Ponyo’s father).  In short, Miyazaki has created with Ponyo a universally uplifting story that should continue to inspire and empower all who see it for years to come.

Visually the film is an exceptional display of the creative talent and artistry at work behind those hallowed walls of Studio Ghibli, with some of the best animated under-water sequences I have ever seen.  My only regret is that I haven’t seen the original Japanese version of the film.  I own the North American version, which boasts the vocal talents of Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon and Liam Neeson to name just a few. Ironically, this version of the film was released by none other than Walt Disney Studios. I am thus left truly and wholeheartedly believing that it must be a small world after all!

Thank you Ponyo.

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