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Terracotta Film Festival 2012 April 22, 2012

Posted by ayasawada in Anime, Film.
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Another year, another excellent Terracotta Film Festival. This year’s line-up had a nice blend of relatively unknown gems, while still featuring the popular blockbusters and well-known filmmakers. I only saw four of the films, but what I saw, I liked.

From Up on Poppy Hill

Studio Ghibli’s latest was, of course, top of the agenda for me. I have to be honest though, having been less than impressed by Arietty and found Goro Miyazaki’s debut, Earthsea, decidedly wanting, my expectations weren’t as high as many others in the sold-out theatre. But that probably worked in its favour. It’s nothing special, but Poppy Hill is a lovely movie. It’s not quite classic Ghibli in the fantastical-Miyazaki mould, but brought back fond memories of more slice-of-life tales like Whisper of the Heart. Set in 1960s Yokohama, the beautiful animation, measured pacing and cast of characters bring the period to life and provide much to like. In truth, its plot is pretty much that of a standard television drama, but it does have one of Ghibli’s more ‘scandalous’ plot developments (or what passes for it in the squeaky-clean Ghibli universe).

Couples and Dancing Queen

One of the best things about Terracotta is the chance to watch silly Korean romcoms. I am absolutely addicted to these and take every opportunity to indulge my guilty pleasure whenever possible. These two, presented as a ‘breakfast double bill’ on the final day, fully fed my addiction. Couples is a little like a Korean version of Love Actually but done much much better. Taking a multi-stranded plot with different viewpoints and interjected with ‘When Harry met Sally‘-style couple interviews, it’s silly and romantic enough to have you smiling.

The real gem of the two though was Dancing Queen. At first, I was a little underwhelmed, as the initial part sped through the couple’s first meetings as kids, then in college, right the way through to middle marriage. So far so meh, I thought. But when the real plot kicked in, that’s when the fireworks started. I’m a sucker for underdog, try your hardest, fight-the-good-fight-type stories, so two in one movie was more than enough to win me over. Really likeable characters, top, top comic moments and one of the best ridiculously-OTT-but-you-can-see-it-a-mile-off finales, this was probably my favourite movie of the 2012 festival.

Himizu

And finally, Sono Sion‘s latest. And it was pretty much what I was expecting. Two hours of extraordinarily screwed up characters, only this time with an element of the 2011 tsunami thrown in. For about two-thirds of the film, I felt like this was going to be another Cold Fish or Guilty of Romance – beautifully filmed, but just plain disturbing and without the element of profundity that lifted Love Exposure. But the final few scenes rescued it for me and approached that empathic moment when all the madness made a some sense. By the end, I almost felt what he was perhaps aiming for: something on the spirit of Japan and it’s ability to get through the shit – both the aftermath of the tsunami and Japanese society’s general malaise. Say what you will about Sono, but you cannot be passive about his films. You feel, even if you don’t like what it is you’re feeling (and it’s often uncomfortable).

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