Wolf Children (Jpn) (wiki)
Wolf Children is the film I deliberately missed on last weeks anime day, and ever since ive been curious to see it as it has managed to stay near the top of the festival voting competition despite only being shown once.
Young Hana is a quiet, single woman with her mind on her work. Studying around the clock for her scholarship to get a better job, her free time is taken up with jobs to get by. Befriending a mysterious work colleague, they become close and eventually start a family, but he is half wolf, the last of a dying race, and their children will be too.
Beginning as a light-hearted romance with a pinch of fantasy, Wolf Children matures into a story of changing priorities and maturing as life continues into new chapters. The art style is a slightly more refined continuation of Mamoru Hosoda's previous gem Summer Wars, but this one is far gentler and goes at a far more sedate pace. The art is beautiful renderings of rural and urban Japan on a par with Kazuo Oga (who did Summer Wars), and in fact you'll see several homages to the various Ghibli films he worked on throughout the film. It does occasionally feel a little silly (the whole wolf-human sexytime thing caused a giggle in the audience when it was meant to be a tender moment) but the other 99% of the time was a sensitive and mature story, told gently and with a great deal of beauty. For anyone who loved Mai Mai Miracle, Whisper of the Heart and Only Yesterday. 8/10
Asya's Happiness (Sov/Rus) (wiki)
The director of this 1966 film was in the audience, which given it was made nearly 50 years ago, he was still spriteley and had all his marbles. Andrei Konchalovsky charmed the audience with his tales of getting hold of a mostly amateur cast, relying on farmworker volunteers from the area, and working the story round their improvisations.
As a consequence of the amateur element the film - at the start at least - is quite muddled, and the various stories told by the many different characters in the film make it difficult to find the central thread of plot that the film is trying to go down. Asya is a farmhand, both lame and pregnant. The father of the child is not necessarily the one who loves her, and over the course of the film, both vie and bicker for her attentions, not treating her very well in the process.
It's difficult to imagine that the same director did both Runaway Train and Tango and Cash, this film perhaps best seen as one of his earliest works to trace the origins of his directing style. As such, most people can safely skip it. 5/10