Tuesday, June 16, 2009
How I was "Spirited Away" at the Movies!
The number of films I know I must see on the big screen is pretty long. Sitting on top of the list lies 2001: A Space Odyssey, still the most meditative, mind-blowing film I've ever seen; hell, all of Stanley Kubrick's films; Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, my favorite Martin Scorsese pictures; Akira is a must; Hayao Miyazaki's films are musts.
Most of the films I've listed I've already seen. The films I have seen have taught me that that means "bull shit." Let me make this easy for myself: any classic I haven't seen must be savored on screen (in my hometown of Detroit, Michigan, Lawrence of Arabia will be showing in August at the Redford Theater!).
As of now, of all the classics, I have only seen Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and, most recently last Saturday, Spirited Away. The first two I saw at the Redford, the last at the Main Art Theater in Royal Oak, Michigan. Aw well.
If that sounds pessimistic, I don't intend it to. I will say, though, that out of all of these cinematic experiences, Spirited Away was the best!
This must be true of all films, but especially this one: Spirited Away never looked better than one the big screen. It was great to do away with the black widescreen bars that occur on DVDs and just experience the moving painting. The surround sound was incredible: musical cues and other sound effects unheard before were loud and clear this time. Miyazaki really knows how to develop an ambience. Water, nature, pigs, trains, scraping of brushes on the floors and walls, etc., all hear. The imagery, having been magnified about a hundred times, made so many things more visible: in the scene when Chihiro first discovers the huge body of water after trying to escape (having seen her parents turned into pigs), she looks across to a beautifully lit city. Unbenowned to this DVD viewer, they are barely visible people walking around in that city. Who'd have thought?
More importantly than these selfish, technical details is the main event of any film experience: watching it with an audience. Everyone laughed, gasped, and cheered in all the right places...and then some odd spots that I thought were dramatic that garnished a lot of laughs. We were all in this together. A lot of us were in it together again. The first time I'd seen the scene of Chihiro going down the stairs, I jumped out of my seat. Having seen it about twenty times now, it affected me less. And then I saw again on the big screen. My friend and I all jumped. The power of film, man. The power of film...
And the film as a whole affected me differently when seeing it on that screen. Chihiro's growth meant more to me. She learned so much. (My friend pointed out, half-jokingly, that Chihiro learned how to run: initially, she was a wimpy, "girly" skipper; when Haku was in danger, she became Jesse Owens. Not a bad point, actually!) And those scenes with No-Face hit a little too close to home. When Chihiro rejected his offering of "gold" the first time, leaving him to wonder what he'd done wrong, I wanted to cry.
Of all the characters in the film, No-Face is the one I most resemble: no real personality, simply doing what he'd think others would want from him (the soap tokens for Chihiro, the gold for the workers) and using the voices of those he swallowed; lonely as Hell; looking for a purpose in life, etc. Thankfully, he finds his purpose in helping Zaniba with her activities.
So I thoroughly enjoyed the film (again, for the first time, for the last time). I don't really plan on watching this film on DVD again unless it's on a big HD television and/or accompanied by Andrew Osmond's companion book (which I've yet to get, but which Michael Barrier highly recommends). The experience was too great to cheapen. Now I really can't wait for Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea. If a Miyazaki film I'd already seen was this new, this breathtaking, and this emotional on the big screen, then an all-new feature first seen in theaters is going to be exhilarating! Until next time, Miyazaki-sensei...
This last screenshot, next to No-Face's rejection, is my favorite moment in the film. Chihiro's finally grown up. She doesn't ever look back when she waves good-bye. She's looking to the future. In the theater, I instinctively waved as she went away.
Au revoir, my Stargirl. I hope we meet again soon...
All screenshots courtesy of http://www.kakuchi.net/, distorted by me to what I think is close enough to the original widescreen ratio.