My Neighbour Totoro
Hayao Miyazaki Retrospective #2

My Neighbour Totoro

The second in the series of Miyazaki films is the strange and wonderful Totoro, which has incidentally just had a major cinema re-release. I have to admit upfront that this is one of my favourite of his films and one that I have seen before a few times – but it was good to revisit it with a more ‘critical’ eye. Although it has a slow start, it slowly captures you in and dazzles with its strange characters and ideas before ending with a poignant and warming ending. It is even in the top 250 of IMDB.

The plot begins with a family moving from the city into the countryside and exploring their new house and surrounding garden. The family is made up of the father Tatsuo, who is a professor, and the mother Yasuko, who is in hospital with tuberculosis – they have two girls named Satsuki and Mei. As the two girls explore the house they find that it is infested with dust creatures/spirits called susuwatari and later they find that the garden is host to King Totoro, a large fluffy cross between a rabbit and a sloth (I think anyway).

Totoro

The girls begin to get excited as they learn their mother is coming home, until one day they receive a phone call in which the hospital reveals that she has caught a cold and so must stay longer. The younger daughter Mei then decides to visit her in hospital and gets lost, which means that Satsuki must summon the help of Totoro in order to find her before she is lost in the dark. The final half hour of the film is actually quite tense, as any narrative is when a child goes missing, and even though it is obvious that there will be a happy ending it still mildly haunts me until it resolves.

The magic of this film (and the beginning of Ghibli’s worldwide success) is in the surrealism of the forest spirit characters. Totoro and his tiny cute friends are adorable (and usefully lend perfectly to fluffy merchandise) and the ‘cat bus’ is a genius invention. The film begins by aligning the audience with the curious imagination of the children as they explore the house, so that by the time we are introduced to the forest spirits they are just as exciting to the viewer as to the little girls. I utterly love this film and it has become my stress release film to cure a bad day. I challenge anyone to watch this film and not fall in love with Totoro and want to travel by the cat bus. Regardless of age or maturity level.

Catbus

Favourite scene? One word: umbrella. You’ll know what I mean when you get there…

Out Now – 24th May 2013

My Neighbour The Hangover

Epic
It’s half term and the only other film on wide release contains strong language, sex and drug references, and brief nudity so you’re lucky that this is actually a fun watch that you can enjoy as well as your tiny person(s).

The Hangover Part III
Speaking of strong language, sex and drug references, and brief nudity… It says a lot about this franchise that I still can’t figure out if I’ve seen Part II or not. Something about a monkey?

Something in the Air (limited release)
French film set in the late 60s about young Europeans wanting to continue a revolution. Not the French revolution mind, you want Les Misérables for that.

The King of Marvin Gardens (limited re-release)
Jack Nicholson stars in a story of two brothers and a misjudged get-rich-quick scheme. First released in 1972.

Benjamin Britten: Peace and Conflict (limited release)
Docudrama about the schooling of English composer Benjamin Britten. Narrated by John Hurt who you last saw blowing your mind in a children’s Sci-Fi show.

The Moth Diaries (limited release)
Lily Cole stars in this British horror set in a girl’s boarding school. Girls can be horrible to each other at the best of times without a supernatural element messing with things.

Grave of the Fireflies (limited re-release)
It has been 25 years since the original release of Grave of the Fireflies, on the same day as My Neighbour Totoro, making both films the same age as me. “A tragic film covering a young boy and his little sister’s struggle to survive in Japan during World War II.”

My Neighbour Totoro (limited re-release)
It has been 25 years since the original release of My Neighbour Totoro, on the same day as Grave of the Fireflies, making both films the same age as me. “When two girls move to the country to be near their ailing mother, they have adventures with the wonderous forest spirits who live nearby.”