I'm not sure if anyone reads these, but for completeness here are reviews of the final three films I saw at the festival. Plus some thoughts on Harry Potter 3 which I finally saw weeks after everyone else, due to it being booked out the first two times I tried to see it, then seeing 10 festival films.
My Neighbour Totoro was just delightful. It's one of Miyazaki's first and, I discovered, Totoro himself provides the Ghibli Studio logo. Two little girls move to the country with their father while their mother is in hospital with TB. The girls, Tatsuki, 8, and Mei, 4, were, despite the setting of 50s Japan, just like children everywhere; feisty little Mei was especially funny and adorable. Their father, a university professor, was a playful, loving, and understanding father; their happiness is marred only by their mother's absence. In the nearby woods, Mei encounters a huge creature she names Totoro, a mangling of the Japanese word for the troll (tororo) in her story book and Tatsuki meets him later while they are waiting for a bus. Unlike most fictional parents, their father believes them and says he's the spirit of the woods. They also meet a huge cat who has transformed himself into a bus and is eventually part of the small miracle that (I think) helps their mother to get better. This doesn't very sound exciting but it was pure joy to watch. This has to be one of my favourite Miyazaki animes now and I'd own it if I could.
Aaltra is probably the most disappointing of all the festival films I saw. It was a great story of two bad-tempered men who lose the use of their legs when the trailer belonging to one of them falls on them while they're fighting, and they end up travelling to Finland in their wheelchairs to demand compensation from the manufacturers, Aaltra. There are some terrific scenes, like one of them mugging pedestrians--it could have been subtitled 'Bastards in Wheelchairs'--but it was marred by cruddy production values. I didn't mind it being in black and white, but grainy 8mm film? Also if you're using B&W, guys, don't use plain white subtitles with no outlines. I couldn't read about a third of them.
Porco Rosso was magnificent. The latest Miyazaki anime, this is set in a sort of alternate 30s, 'the age of the seaplanes', this was full of lush Adriatic seascapes and stunning scenes of flight. Porco Rosso himself is an Italian aviator who, disgusted by the inhumanity of WW1, rejects humanity and becomes a pig. Bizarrely, everyone seems to accept this as quite normal and there's even a mole who sells him ammunition. He has a beautiful, very 30s-slinky girlfriend, and a tough young girl sidekick called Fio--the 17-year-old designer of his plane who travels with him as mechanic to ensure her design has no problems. Favourite lines:
"I'd rather be a pig than a Fascist."I wish I could buy this one too for its beauty, wonderful characters, and sheer eccentricity.
when someone sees Fio in the front cockpit: "He must have thought you were a pearl before a swine."
and when pirates are surprised Fio designed the plane (which was also built by women): "Why not? They're half the world!"
The Miyazaki films were the highlights of the festival. I love them for their stunning graphics, celebration of nature, complex characters, and of course his strong females.
And after all that, I finally saw Harry Potter: The Prisoner of Azkaban. I loved it, but Greg, who's never read the books but enjoyed the two previous HP films, liked it the least of the three. He thought the plot was jerky, as if scenes had been cut, and he was totally puzzled by Hermione's sudden appearances in class. Now I can understand that fitting a much larger book into a couple of hours is hard to do and I think they did it very well, but Hermione's time loops were badly done. Just having Harry and Ron surprised at her sudden appearances looked like either inattention on their part, or teleportation on Hermione's. How hard would it have been to have a couple of short scenes where they encountered her on the way to a class she couldn't have been at, or saw her in two places and wondered how she got from one to the other so quickly? I remember such scenes in the book, and also her being tired due to too much study; I figured out quite early what she was doing. It would have been nice to provide more clues in the film for those who hadn't read the book--or do they assume most have? That was my only quibble though. Lots of fun and quite scary at times, great SFX, and the casting was as brilliant as always.