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The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Drama, Fantasy, Animation
IMDB rating:
Isao Takahata
James Caan as The Bamboo Cutter (voice)
Brian Leone as Villager (voice)
Darren Criss as Sutemaru (voice)
Hynden Walch as Me no Warawa (voice)
Chloe Moretz as The Princess Kaguya (voice)
Beau Bridges as Prince Kuramochi (voice)
Oliver Platt as Lord Minster of the Right Abe (voice)
Mary Steenburgen as The Bamboo Cutter's Wife / Narrator (voice)
Daniel Dae Kim as Great Counselor Otomo (voice)
James Marsden as Prince Ishitsukuri (voice)
Dean Cain as The Mikado (voice)
George Segal as Inbe no Akita (voice)
Lucy Liu as Lady Sagami (voice)
John Cho as Middle Counselor Isonokami (voice)
Storyline: An old man makes a living by selling bamboo. One day, he finds a princess in a bamboo. The princess is only the size of a finger. Her name is Kaguya. When Kaguya grows up, 5 men from prestigious families propose to her. Kaguya asks the men to find memorable marriage gifts for her, but the 5 men are unable to find what Kaguya wants. Then, the Emperor of Japan proposes to her.
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The Tale of the Princess Kaguya:The original Japanese version.
When taking a look at the films which had been nominated for viewing on IMDb's Film Festival board,this was the one that went right to the top of my most anticipated list.With Studio Ghibli's Princess Mononoke being my fifth favourite film of all time,I got set to meet another Ghibli princess.

The plot:

Chopping bamboo, Sanuki no Miyatsuko a bamboo shoot and finds a baby girl growing inside it! Believing her to be a miracle,Sanuki and his wife decide to raise the girl as their own.Giving her the name "Princess" the Miyatsuko's soon find their daughter to grow at an abnormal speed,as she develops a close friendship with Sutemaru,a fellow child in the village.Cutting bamboo one day, Miyatsuko cuts into bamboo shoots of gold. Taking this as a sign that their daughter really is a "princess",the parents tear her away from the village,and take her to live in a Palace. Christened with the name Princess Kaguya,Kaguya decides to give all of the men who want her hand in marriage impossible challenges,as Kaguya looks to her past in the nights sky.

View on the film:

Based on the 10th century Japanese folklore tale The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter,co-writer/(along with Riko Sakaguchi) director Isao Takahata paints the tale with exquisite water colours,giving the title a haunting atmosphere of being a fading memory. Taking the brave step of not filling every inch of the frame with a constant stream of action, Takahata expertly uses space to give the film an extraordinary poetic quality,with the royal ruby colours Kaguya is surrounded by being unable to replace the lush greens and blues of the flowers in Kaguya's former village.

Currently the longest movie to come from Studio Ghibli,the screenplay by Takahata & Sakaguchi brilliantly use the time to meditate on the emotional bond Kaguya has to her childhood home,which sails off into a devastating, melancholy final,where Kaguya's parents find their daughter to grow away from them. Along with the heart-wrenching family Drama,the writers sparkle the title with a dose of Ghibli magic weaved in the attempts to get Kaguya's hand in marriage having the touch of tall tales from the lights of The Canterbury Tales and the fragmented encounters between Kaguya and Sutemaru leaping from an earthy bond into a pure,bittersweet flight of fantasy,as the bamboo shoots open up the tale of Princess Kaguya.
Beautiful, heart-wrenching and powerful- but some slow moments.
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is a 2013 Japanese anime fantasy/drama film directed by Isao Takahata and part of the infamous collection of Studio Ghibli films, other known ones being Grave of the Fireflies, Spirited Away and My Neighbour Totoro. To my delight, Studio Ghibli has done it once again and produced another fantastic movie. One that delivers a beautiful, emotional narrative about a bamboo cutter who discovers a tiny princess growing from one of the shoots, who then grows up to become royalty only to feel misplaced, without an sense of identity and at times feels isolated. One that delivers blissful, traditional sounding Japanese folk scores and a very unique, water-coloured based animation style, hand crafted to perfection. The film focuses primarily on the princess and her short but memorable life on Earth. The tale features many different themes that keep the story diverse and engaging, and the ending provides a prefect sense of closure while being hugely powerful and heart- wrenching. The film is also very mature and provides all round entertainment for people of all ages-not just young children. The film does have a few flaws however that just slightly hold it back from being a 'perfect 10', the first being its length at 2hrs 17mins certain parts certainly felt dragged out, especially when arriving in the capital during the second act and some extremely slow paced scenes that aren't hugely interesting or gripping. These however barely take from the experience of this beautiful film and proving once again Studio Ghibli are the masters of anime and a huge influence on animation films in general. 8/10
The Princess Diaries
Although I was chuffed when Big Hero 6 walked away with the Oscar for Best Animated Feature at this years' ceremony, my joy was short- lived when I realised I hadn't seen any other contender in the category. Yes, not even How to Train Your Dragon 2. One excuse was that The Tale of the Princess Kaguya hadn't been released in the UK yet, even though it had been floating around cinemas across the world for the past couple of years. Now released and featuring an English-dubbed cast consisting of Chloe Grace Moretz, James Caan, and Lucy Liu, it was time for redemption, and to watch what once slipped through my fingers. Or eyes. You know what I mean.

Once upon time, in a galaxy far, far away, Mr Bamboo cutter, voiced by Sonny Corleone himself, James Caan, finds the tiniest of children hidden in a magical bamboo shoot and decides to take her under his, and his wife's, wing, raising her like their own and naming her Princess, due to her ability to grow at the speed of knots and develop much quicker than that of a mortal human. One day, Mr Bamboo cutter finds gold and cloth of fine quality in the same place he found his beloved Princess, and decides that she must be moved to the capital in order to fulfill her fate of nobility and become a real-life princess. First off, the film looks beautiful. In terms of effort and sheer elbow-grease the film must have required from the makers, it deserves a standing ovation, and I'm rather glad it got recognised by the Oscars, albeit losing out to the much more mainstream Big Hero 6. Each scene looks like it should be paused, printed out, and shoved in the Louvre for close examination. It is simply a wonder to behold.

Now on to the story. Imagine the wonder of Pans Labyrinth. but set in the delicate world of a U rated movie; that's what came to mind during the course of Tale's simply glorious story that deals with all the key subjects of childhood, moving home, arranged marriage, and finally, fulfilling your destiny. The length of 137 minutes for an animated movie might be questionable, with the film suffering slightly during the half-way mark, but sticking with it results in one of the most heartbreaking, yet inevitable, endings of an animated movie you may ever see. In a nutshell? It's lovely.

Overall Score: 8/10
The Tale of Princess Kaguya's is Takahata's final work to end his prolific career at Studio Ghibli. The motion picture is not only based on the famous Japanese folktale but also a story about Takahata's own retirement and vision of death. Behind the facade of a girl that grows up to become a princess and eventually leave earth for the moon, is the author's own perceptions about the cycles of life, happiness, disappointments and afterlife. It's also a message about family values, and the lapses of time and age. The tale of princess Kaguya is probably my favorite Ghibli movie visually-wise. The water colors, reminiscent of ancient Chinese ink and brush techniques are masterfully used here, and bring out all the emotions from the movie's main protagonists. It really doesn't get any better than this. From the landscape canvas of rural Japan, to the magnificent character artwork, everything moves fluidly. The story is both hopeful and tragic, and the excellent dialogue adds up to it. The soundtrack from Joe Hisaishi is masterful and the Japanese voice overs are absolutely brilliant. To summarize without giving away too many details, this 140 min animated picture is a masterpiece from all angles, one of Studio Ghibli's finest releases and arguably one of the greatest animated movies ever made.
Absolutely beautiful film about magic, good intentions and finding your place in things
This film was nominated for the Academy Award for Animated Feature, losing to Big Hero 6. There will be spoilers ahead:

I'm not going to talk much about the plot, because this film must be seen to be appreciated. So I'll do a quick synopsis first and then talk about the technical aspects.

A bamboo cutter finds a small girl in a bamboo stalk and takes her home as a blessing from the gods. She becomes a regular sized baby and then proceeds to rapidly grow into a beautiful woman. She's taken to the city as a young girl to be raised as a princess Through much tumult, she finally learns her place in things and who she really is.

It really is a very interesting story, with fascinating characters-all of which should unfold for you as you watch the film. This is not only one of the best animated films I've seen, but also one of the better films I've seen in some time.

The hand-drawn animation is beautiful, the music is wonderful and matches the film perfectly. The editing is very good and the voice work (at least on the Japanese language soundtrack) was exceptional. The script was also excellent.

Although I like Big Hero 6 and consider it also a very good film in its own right, I personally like The Tale of Princess Kaguya even more and I wish it had won the Academy Award instead. I know it really doesn't matter. Both are excellent films and are deserving of the accolades they've received.

This film is available on Blu Ray and DVD. By all means, watch it on Blu Ray if you can. Most highly recommended.
A rare gem of modern animation, a masterpiece no doubt.
Before this film, the last masterpiece by Takahata Isao at Studio Ghili is My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999). 7 years later, in 2006, he began a new animation project which is this film, and everyone had to wait another 7 years to see his work which was claimed prior to the release date by Nishimura Yoshiaki (a producer of the film) that this work is "the best and last" by Takahata. I completely agree with Mr. Nishimura. The film has a minimalist style taking some resemblance to My Neighbors Yamadas, but more colorful, more poetic and picturesque, and more artistically soaring in visual style. The plot is simple and beautiful. The soundtrack is awesome.

In his career at Ghibli, Takahata has made just 5 animated feature films for 25 years (including Grave of the Fireflies), roughly a half as much as Miyazaki Hayao's works (9 films), but as the more time went by, the better and the more creative Takahata has been in making his works. And with Kaguya, he has reached his highest peak in the life of creation. In my own opinion, this film is as excellent as Miyazaki's Spirited Away in general: less symbolic but way visually better than Miyazaki's work.

And like Grave of the Fireflies or Only Yesterday, Kaguya's ending leaves some melancholy in audiences' mind, though it is so predictable. Perhaps it's the melancholy not only about the film, but also about a rare gem in animation which has gone far far away and would never come back, like Kaguya.
Best animated film ever made?
When I think of animated films, my mind is not filled with enchanting scenes from Fantasia or talking toys or many of the other things that seem to be so exhilarating to mass audiences. Popularity and entertainment have grown less exciting to me the more that I watch movies. I want to be caressed with a beautiful idea and allowed to ponder it for a while. That's why I love Studio Ghibli. Or, that's at least one reason why I love Ghibli.

Other contenders for best animated film might be... Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Grave of the Fireflies, Princess Mononoke, or the beautiful "recobbled cut" of The Princess and the Cobbler. I think that The Tale of Princess Kaguya is easily a contender. Not for greatest of 2014 (WHY Big Hero 6?) but of all time.

Animation-wise, it is near the very top. It is every bit as entrancing as Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Of course, Princess Mononoke has more detail in its art and The Princess and the Cobbler is in a class of its own. (If you've never seen The Princess and the Cobbler - Recobbled Cut on YouTube, watch it now - its Salvador Dali meets Andy Warhol). The animation is minimalistic to the point that it actually enhances and adds to the experience. Your mind is allowed to fill in the blanks. The "suggestions" made by the animators are absolutely breathtaking. The spirit of Japan comes to life in their strokes.

Considering the animated films that are being released today (Walt Disney Studios, for example, treats its audience like mindless garbage receptacles), Princess Kaguya is more than a breath-of-fresh-air, it is a very important film. It says something that very few movie studios have the guts to say. That money doesn't matter - life should be pure. That's what this movie pines for - purity. And how so lacking are America's studios today! Hollywood has become a business rather than a laboratory. It no longer makes films; instead, we are subjected to 2- hour-long trailers for merchandise. Kaguya is a real masterpiece and work-of-art. It deserves to be celebrated. And it deserved the Oscar. Maybe it's too good for the Oscars.
A Triumph
With the exception of the energetic The Lego Movie, this year has been a disappointment for the animated genre. What a relief then it is that Isao Takahata's (Grave of the Fireflies) new film is a triumphant success.

Based on a 10th century Japanese folktale, The Tale of Princess Kaguya is a bittersweet coming of age story. Our protagonist is Kaguya-hime who is discovered as a baby in a bamboo stalk by an old peasant man. He and his childless wife raise her as their own, providing the best they can as she rapidly ages. While her mother is fearful of change and just wants a comfortable life for her adopted daughter, her father envisions great things. He sees Kaguya as part of a divine plan and after fine clothes and gold come shooting out of bamboo stalks he concludes that the heavens want her to become a proper princess. He assumes this is the best way to make his daughter happy instead of asking her what she wants.

A sharply observed feminist critique of traditional Japanese culture as well as a cautionary tale of the burdens we place on our children, The Tale of Princess Kaguya has a wealth of complex themes and archetypes hidden beneath the surface of its fairly straight- forward story. This is one of the rare films that are both easily accessible to a young audience and one that film students can write thesis papers on.

The final word should be reserved for Studio Ghibli's animation. The style used invokes something between impressionist paintings and water-colours while employing a muted palette. Ghibli moves away from traditional anime and the results are breathtaking. The hand drawn frames could each stand alone as a portrait and yet the film feels fluid. At times the animation blurs into expressionism; the brush strokes matching the characters inner- turmoil.

Easily the best animated film of the year, it's a must see for fans of the genre. Luckily North America will get a theatrical release; the English-dubbed version will be out October 17 and will star Chloe Grace Moretz as Kaguya.
An ancient legend becomes a modern masterpiece.
Even having understood its exceptional nature, this film took me a good amount of time to emotionally process and I took it upon myself consider its many themes. The result? I came to the conclusion this is a masterpiece of a film.

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is far more mature than an R rated film and far more complex than the Oscar-bait films we receive year after year. This is a story of a girl having her happiness destroyed by others. It critiques patriarchy and even Feudal Japan tradition. It resonates on the human condition and both the beauty and pain brought about by life. It's heart-wrenching and tragic. It's beautiful and enjoyable. It will leave you unsure and uncomfortable, but in awe of its storytelling.

This film isn't afraid to add depth to its characters (especially its wonderful leading lady Kaguya), to present darkness and compelling themes in a medium still considered childish, and to proceed at a lengthy, but comfortable pace in order to properly explore its characters, themes, and storytelling. What we are left with is a multidimensional masterpiece that will likely be timeless.

Other objects of merit are the fantastic Japanese and English dubbing, the beautiful naturalistic art style, and the utterly spectacular soundtrack. This film, despite being well-received, hasn't received the circulation it deserves in the US. Buy this film today. You owe it to yourself to experience the emotional currents of Kaguya's tale.
Lovingly crafted over the course of eight years, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is an animated masterpiece unlike any other.
I can look back to a few experiences that completely changed the way that I watch movies; one of these is the first time that I saw Stanley Kubrick's 1968 masterpiece 2001: A Space Oddysey, which showed me the purest example of film as an art form that I had ever seen. I saw it not too long after I graduated high school and had never experienced a movie that expressed complex and confusing thoughts in the way that it did nor in such a visually stunning way. The film went beyond conventional narrative and filmmaking to deliver something entirely new to me.

In a similar manner, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya represents a level of artistry that I had never before seen in an animated feature. From the brilliant mind of Studio Ghibli's lesser-known co- founder Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies, Only Yesterday), the film is an adaptation of Japan's oldest folk tale, The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. It tells the story of a strange girl (Asakura/Moretz) who is discovered inside a bamboo stalk and who shoots through her childhood at a rapid pace. Her adoptive parents (Chii/Caan, Miyamoto/Steenburgen) bring her into the city, where she is groomed as a noblewoman and comes to be widely sought after for her beauty.

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is simply gorgeous; its visual style combines watercolor painting and charcoal sketching to create something that is entirely its own. Personal and often unnecessary care is given to the smallest details, such as a toddler crawling after a frog or the princess casually putting her hair up. The character and quality of the animation even change with the tone of the story, most noticeably in one instance in which the princess' despair completely overwhelms her. As the world is stripped away and sound is simplified to almost nothing, the scene so perfectly expresses the character's personality and mood and presents such a perfect image of her story that to me, it fully represents the reasons that animation exists as a medium. Because there are no live actors or sets and no real world in which the filmmakers must do their work, the artists are free to fully express themselves as artists, without the constraints of the real world. Rather than use animation to simply bring color to a bland story as many animators are wont to do, the creators here use the deep story and visuals to produce situations and imagery that would otherwise be impossible to create. The movie spends much of its run time grounded firmly in reality – sometimes uncomfortably so – but at its most powerful, it extends far beyond what live action can achieve.

The film is also thematically rich, particularly exploring the societal roles of Japanese women at the time depicted. When she is no longer allowed to live her simple life around her childhood friends, her life becomes dedicated to presenting herself as beautiful and submissive to the world. She is instructed to sit still and to look pretty, never mind the fact that she is often hidden from view. She is whisked away to be married as soon as she reaches puberty and is told by both the men and women around that a rich husband will be the source of her greatest happiness.

Kaguya herself is a wonderful character to watch. She is at times one of the happiest people you could imagine but at others one of the saddest. After all, she started walking over the course of a day and grew into the body of a teenager in less than a year's time. Her innocence is shown as a blessing and a curse, and seeing her interact with the variety of people she encounters provides the film plenty of joy and drama.

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya uses the language of cinema in a way that, in my experience watching animation, has been truly special; through blocking of scenes, visual symbolism, color, and much more, the film is able to speak to us beyond its surface narrative and to tell a more robust story. It makes full use of the opportunities unique to animation and combines them with tools of the great live- action masterpieces of the past.

The film, for example, often separates the princess from the rest of the world, particularly in scenes in which she is hidden from sight. She is often placed behind a screen or behind bamboo blinds for narrative purposes, but even when these are not present, there is often an element visually keeping her from other characters, such as a bamboo stalk or a tall blade of grass placed between them. While not forming a true wall between the characters, the viewer can see them separated and feel their distance.

This film also offers a wonderful experience of sound and silence through the use of its score, which consists of tracks mostly under two minutes long. This allows each moment of music to have its power and meaning, while not overwhelming the viewing experience or directing the viewer along every step of the film's vast emotional landscape. Through contrapuntal folk sounds or delicate solo piano, the film is able to sing its story to us as it shows it and tells it. The musical pieces and the silence between them are given the full attention that they deserve and in turn give us exactly what we need.

I cannot recommend this film highly enough. While critical response at its release was overwhelmingly positive, far too few people have heard of it, and even fewer have seen it. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is a movie that you will never forget and offers an experience not quite like anything else you will ever see.
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