Glasgow Film Festival 2013: Day 3

Wolf Children (Jpn) (wiki)

In the few short months since Leeds, I had forgotten just how good Wolf Children was. Beautifully drawn with a genuinely affecting story and accompanied by a warm and gently embracing soundtrack, I was glad I took the opportunity to see it once more, and this time with the lass, who was similarly enamoured.  Director Mamoru Hosoda, once seen merely as the Digimon director who walked out of the development of Howls Moving Castle, is fast replacing Makoto Shinkai in my mind as the 'new' Miyazaki. 8.5/10

From Up on Poppy Hill (Jpn) (wiki)
This was what we were here for. A new Ghibli film is not one to pass up, and this film in particular would be especially interesting. Father and son Hayao and Goro Miyazaki, who were not seeing eye to eye when Goro was chosen out of the blue to do Tales from Earthsea, worked together to script and direct a serialised manga of the same name.

Young Umi lives in a boarding house in 1960's Yokohama as she waits for her mother to return from abroad. She shoulders the duties of cooking and cleaning for her siblings and relatives, and the other residents of the house, so her life is pretty busy outside of school where she is a quiet student.

Inadvertently becoming part of a publicity stunt for the school clubhouse which is about to be demolished, Umi meets Shun, a sailors' son and passionate editor of the school newspaper, who, after an unpromising start begin to get closer and have feelings, but as Shun discovers more about her, an uncomfortable realisation leads him to keep his distance.

As you can see from the trailer, GKids, rather than Disney has picked up the rights (presumably for the same reasons Only Yesterday was dropped from the release list), and they seem to have made a faithful job of the translation and marketing, unlike the Americanified release of Arrietty (with that baffling and godawful cover) and it's unusual twin dubs - neither of which were especially flattering.

As well as the promising translation, it is a certainty that Poppy Hill goes some way to fix the problems that beset Earthsea, which felt unfocused and was telling of an immature director at the helm. The studio seems to be leaning away from fantasy for the moment as it did in the nineties, which I'm not going to complain about one bit - films like Only Yesterday and Whisper of the Heart count among their finest output in my opinion. You can clearly see the influences of both father and son coming together, and some scenes echo back to some of the earlier films. There's the bicycle scenes and the initially cold relationship warming up from Whisper, the twin time lines from Omohide and a smattering of other recognisable elements for those who know the catalogue well.

And that's where my criticism comes in. Though Poppy Hill is undoubtedly a lovely film with charm and wit and a storyline that is brave enough to tread into uncomfortable territory, it does feel like it borrows too heavily from the other films that the studio has released, and although that doesn't spoil the film significantly, it does cheapen it slightly. It feels almost like Goro-san is trying to address his earlier critics by following his fathers' style too closely instead of finding his own identity, and yes - on the day and viewing it straight after Wolf Children, I'm afraid that Hosoda's film was the better of the two. 8/10

And that was unfortunately it for Glasgow this year.  We had to get back to the normalities of work all too quickly, so with the sprinklings of snow in the air, we rattled down to the station with our bags and returned south in time for Monday morning.

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