Sunday, April 19, 2009
"Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea" is the title of Hayao Miyazaki - the genius Japanese animated movie director - last movie. It was released last year in Japan where Miyazaki is almost a god, and as usual the movie had a tremendous success. "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea" will be released in the U.S in August, but it was released this week in France! In two words - well, three, actually - it's a wonder, and let me tell you why.
"Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea" is somehow inspired by the story of the Little Mermaid. Yes, that's right, the same story that inspired Disney's classic animated. But Miyazaki transform all of it in a Japanese tale, so i think we can say that the Little Mermaid inspiration is not that obvious. Which is not the problem, as Miyazaki's tale is wonderful.
Please note that from now on, as i am going to tell you more about the story, there will be some spoilers. If you want to avoid them, just look at the pictures and the trailer at the end of the article.
"Ponyo" is a 2D animated movie, just like in the good old days of animation. The very beginning of the movie is a gorgeous scene showing life under sea.
"Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea" tells the story of a 5 years old boy - called Suzuke - living with his mother on a house located at the top of a cliff. One morning, as he goes down on the beach to play with his little boat...
...he find - stuck in a bottle - a fish, half fish-half human who will be called "Ponyo", who also have magical gifts.
Ponyo - in fact a girl - is the daughter of Fujimoto - a kind of "sorcerer" living in the deep ocean who left the world of humans, disgusted by how humans keep destroying the sea's ecological system.
Her mother is a kind of Goddess of the sea.
Ponyo also have dozens of "little" sisters...
...all excited to see Ponyo's transgression of the undersea world rules.
Suzuke, the young boy, will try to keep Ponyo, feeding her - she loves ham! or playing with her...
Suzuke's mother watch all this closely...
...but Fujimoto the sorcerer will try to get Ponyo back undersea...
This is only the first twenty minutes of the movie, and from that point lot of great scenes awaits you, like a stunning typhoon-tsunami sequence, an animation wonder, and many other scenes that transform the movie in a waking dream, sublimated by the gorgeous score of Joe Hisaishi, Miyazaki's regular composer.
The whole movie is full of poetry and at first sight it seems to be an animated film for young children. But as always with Miyazaki it's more complicated than that. The ecological message is obvious and grown-ups will be amazed by the inside beauty of the movie, precisely coming from its incredible childhood's purity.
In a recent interview, Miyazaki explained why Suzuke, the young boy, is 5 years old: "It's a personal theory, i think that at 5 years old a young child is still at the border between human and god. When a baby is born he's godlike and then become ordinary, mortal, but individual..."
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Hayao Miyazaki, now 68 years old, keep saying that Ponyo is his last movie, let's hope not. How could we live without a new Miyazaki's masterpiece?
All pictures and french trailer video: copyright Studio Ghibli