The Tale of Princess Kaguya is a hand drawn dream, a truly beautiful and thoughtful fairytale. Playing in both its original Japanese and in an English dubbed version at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, it’s another masterful work from Studio Ghibli.
An old bamboo cutter finds a tiny young girl growing inside a stalk. He takes her home to raise as his own with his wife, and much to their amazement she grows rapidly into a young woman who enthralls all those around her. When the man finds more reeds magically filled with reams of silk and gold, he moves her to the city, intent on making her the princess that he believes her to be. However, there’s a price to pay, and they all have to accept a punishment that no one anticipated.
It’s still unsure exactly if this will be one of the last films to come out of Studio Ghibli, but the tone herecertainly comes across as a swan song as director, with studio co-founder Isao Takahata delivering a lush, hand drawn fairytale that moves at its own lesurely pace.
The animation in this movie almost feels like it’s being drawn before your eyes. Takahata creates a world that feels ethereal and almost science fiction, zooming through the reeds of the while engaging with the characters slowly despite the energetic and frenetic universe around them. It’s simple folklore with a powerful message about the consequences of the decisions that we make in life, the good ones and the bad ones. It’s full of beauty and the sadness, a summary of the human experience and our drive to love and be loved. It’s a little overstuffed and bloated, but undoubtedly visionary.
I was lucky enough to see the Japanese cut ,and the voice cast does a fine job. The US ensemble includesthe likes of James Caan, Chloe Grace Moretz , Lucy Liu, Mary Steenburgen , Oliver Platt & Darren Criss. I have no doubt that English version will be up to the same visual standards, which is the important thing here.
The Tale of Princess Kaguya isn’t an easy sell even by Studio Ghibli’s usually adventurous standards, but it’s a heck of a change of pace.