Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Fairy Tale Magic

I was fortunate enough to see Howl's Moving Castle a few weeks ago, and although I've seen several other movies since, I have to admit that director Hayao Miyazaki's latest work continues to haunt me. Like most of Miyazaki's work, it is lush, vibrant, magical, and familiar. Like his last work, Spirited Away, its animated star is a seemingly ordinary young girl thrown into extraordinary circumstances. Unlike that previous work, our new heroine Sophie lives in a steampunk world, where magic and railroads exist side by side. She lives a reserved life, removed from both the wonders of her world and from other people, until a chance encounter with the wizard Howl makes her a target for his enemies. Cursed with extreme old age by the Witch of the Waste, she flees her safe town life for the wilderness, where... well, I wouldn't want to spoil the ride for you. I'll just say that along the way, Sophie learns more than she ever bargained for, especially about herself.

The art in this film was absolutely breathtaking. Miyazaki achieves a new level of sophistication with his deft balancing of magical and technological images. The two concepts meld seanlessly, as evidenced by the title castle, a magically moving monstrosity that, despite its bizarre architecture, seems to fit itself perfectly into fields and mountainsides. I was especially impressed by his handling of Sophie's enchantment. At first, we see Sophie only in her new, aged body, but as she relaxes her guard and allows her true self to show, her form blends between the two forms. When Sophie speaks from her heart, the effects of her curse are pushed back, until the only trace remaining is her grayed hair.

Without a doubt, this movie is destined to be a classic. Fortunately, Disney is providing us with a true nationwide release on July 17th. I think I'll go see it again.

Today's Recommended Song: Neverending Story by Limahl. This song always makes me think of magic.