This is a wonderfully imaginative and fantastical children's fantasy. It is easy to see why it was perhaps the critical hit of 2002. The film is glorious to look at. It is a testament to old fashioned animation techniques that seem to be resigned to foreign animations. Of course there is some use of computer imagery for certain shots but they blend seamlessly and the overall artistry involved is superlative.
This is the first Hayao Miyazaki film I have seen and I will certainly watch his others. The story plays on many elements successful with kids films, that transport you back to your own childhood and also allows the young audience to connect with the themes in the movie too. The story centres around Chihiro, a young girl about to move into a new place and who feels insecure about the new environment she will be living in. These fears become a part of her encounter with a strange abandoned amusement park that she and her parents find when they reach a dead end in their car. At the park they find that their is a stall that is seemingly open, with glorious displays of mouth watering food. There are no people about but Chihiros parents decide to gorge themselves on this bounty and pay later. As Chihioro explores she comes across a strange boy who warns her to get out before dark. It is too late however, because as night falls, ghosts are awakened, and then by the time she gets back to her parents they are turned into pigs. She then finds that the route she came from is gone and she is now trapped in this place, her only allie being the boy she met earlier. She is told to get a job at the centre piece of the park, a bath house run by Yubaba, an evil power mad witch. This is a bath house for the spirits and Chihiro has to find a job there before she is found and turned into an animal herself, then unable to save her parents.
The story is imaginative and the characters and animations endlessly unique and strange. This is just so much more creative than Hollywood. The characters are likeable and we become engrossed with Chihiros adventures inside this bathhouse, and the characters she comes into contact with as she tries to get her parents back as humans and whilst trying to get back to the human world. What I also loved in this film is that the animation gives it a real sense of cinematography, the drawing makes the film stand out in a way that American animations rarely do. Another film I think of that looked really good was Bellville Rendezvous. Another great point in fact the best part of it, is the fantastic score. It really is uplifting and very original. This is just great film making. *****
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Chihiro and her parents are moving to a small Japanese town in the countryside, much to Chihiro's dismay. On the way to their new home, Chihiro's father makes a wrong turn and drives down a lonely one-lane road which dead-ends in front of a tunnel. Her parents decide to stop the car and explore the area. They go through the tunnel and find an abandoned amusement park on the other side, with its own little town. When her parents see a restaurant with great-smelling food but no staff, they decide to eat and pay later. However, Chihiro refuses to eat and decides to explore the theme park a bit more. She meets a boy named Haku who tells her that Chihiro and her parents are in danger, and they must leave immediately. She runs to the restaurant and finds that her parents have turned into pigs. In addition, the theme park turns out to be a town inhabited by demons, spirits, and evil gods. At the center of the town is a bathhouse where these creatures go to relax. The owner of the bathhouse is the evil witch Yubaba, who is intent on keeping all trespassers as captive workers, including Chihiro. Chihiro must rely on Haku to save her parents in hopes of returning to their world.
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