The Tale Of Princess Kaguya
Hoovering up awards nominations over the past couple of years, Princess Kaguya finally arrives on these shores in time for cherry blossom season. Studio Ghibli, Tokyo's legendary animation masters (Spirited Away, The Wind Rises) are peerless in their field. Yet while this latest is indeed sumptuous, it is imperfect.
It bases itself on the 10th-century Japanese fable The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, rendering its tale of a tiny girl discovered inside a bamboo by peasant farmer Miyatsuko. He brings the charming wee sprite back to the childless home he shares with his wife and Kaguya is raised adoringly as their own. She grows at a spectacular pace, earning her the nickname "Little Bamboo" and is very soon frolicking with local rascals in the forest.
When Miyatsuko discovers gold in a similarly mysterious bamboo, he establishes his family as nobility to secure Kaguya a powerful suitor worthy of her beauty.
Naturally, she never asked for this and longs to return to a simpler life in the bamboo plantations. Isao Takahata's film is extraordinarily beautiful, a meditative watercolour wonderland that eschews the sharp lines of Manga for something akin to one of Hokusai's preliminary sketches.
The trouble is that the running time - 137 minutes - is far too long for the slight and rambling narrative to keep focus.