For the overnight video, we have the Japanese trailers to Takahata's 1991 masterpiece, Omohide Poro Poro. It is easily my favorite of all the Studio Ghibli movies, and one of my all-time favorite movies. I've often described this film as "Ozu painted with watercolors," but Poro Poro has a modern pop-centric sensibility that gleefully steals from Western mass media in the service of cultural satire, it flows between a "modern" 1991 and "nostalgic" 1966 to question Japan's postwar values, its Western influences, its very identity in the face of economic collapse. The "bubble" economy is the unspoken elephant in the room, as the personal and the cultural melt together.
What does it mean to be Japanese in the post-war world? Horus begs his dying father, "Who? Who are my people?" These questions of personal and national identity are one of the dominant themes of Takahata's films. And he does so by telling deeply humane, emotional stories. I always find myself completely verklempt after watching one of his movies, and I need a good five minutes after to bring myself back down. I can think of a number of moments where Poro Poro does this: the baseball game that doubles as a childhood courtship; a sunrise over the mountains where the flowers sing in a beautiful chorus; a father's frustration at his daughter erupting in sudden (and shocking) violence; a daughter trapped by society's strict rules; consoling herself by singing the theme song to her favorite television show; and, of course, the final ending during the credits. Yes, it's a schmaltzy ending. Willy hears ya, Willy don't care.
Of course, you don't need to understand Japanese culture circa 1991 to connect to Poro Poro. Anyone who has ever felt lost, drifting in a life that seems to carry you away, can connect to Taiko-chan's crisis of identity, and her journey of the self. Who am I? Who have I become? What became of the child I once was? Where do I go from here? These are universal themes.
Why can's such movies be made in the West? Is it really so impossible to comprehend the idea of animation that doesn't sell to five-year-olds? Can we really imagine any future for the medium beyond "the electric babysitter?" I don't see any reason why animation cannot tell stories for all audiences, covering all topics, incorporating all of the history of cinema. In the West, Walt Disney is the Black Hole of Animation. Nothing escapes his gravitational pull. That's unfortunate. It's like Dorothy is trapped for eternity in boring ol' black-and-white Kansas, completely unaware that Technicolor even exists. Dorothy is being deprived and it's a damned shame.
daniel thomas Categories: omohide poro poro, video