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PRINCESS MONONOKE

SYNOPSIS:
The setting is medieval Japan, a time of great change as industry and firearms are introduced to a feudal nation. Prince Ashitaka (voice of Yoji Matsuda) kills an enormous wild boar that threatens his village. As it happens, the animal is no ordinary beast, but a demon from a far away land and Ashitaka is left with a quickly spreading scar on his arm. He leaves on a quest to cure his curse and find out what drove the boar mad. Eventually he encounters Iron Town, a new metropolis ruled by Lady Eboshi (voice of Yuko Tanaka) that provides employment for the townsfolk but is also causing damage to the nearby forest. Opposed to the industrialists are the denizens of the woods, including a raft of animals, the Forest Spirit, and San, the Princess Mononoke (voice of Yuriko Ishida), a human raised by wolves. Torn between his allegiances to each side, Ashitaka strives to find a way for both to co-exist amid impending internecine battle.

"Long, complex, kaleidoscopically coloured and terrifically animated, Princess Mononoke is a big gazpacho of genres and ideas that, typically for an anime, rides a very uneven narrative course. Part fantasy, part samurai action, part eco-drama, it's Kimba the White Lion meets Monkey with some green politics thrown in the mix. The result? A strange and not easily palatable brew. Directed by Hayao Miyazaki, a legend in the anime scene who also helmed The Castle of Cagliostro, the film is at one level a traditional saga, the story of Ashitaka’s quest for a cure to his demon scar. There's some good old fashioned fisticuffs, decapitation and contretemps of various sorts as our hero makes his way cross-country on his trusty red elk. On other levels the film deals with issues of gender and disability, and of course there is its principal concern: the destruction of the environment at the hand of man. Princess Mononoke offers no easy solutions on the last point. Indeed the dilemma is not cast as good versus evil. For instance as much as Lady Eboshi is the villain of the piece, wanting to kill the Forest Spirit, spoiling the river and denuding a nearby mountain of trees to get at its iron ore, she’s not really a bad person. She hires lepers and prostitutes and her vision is of a better future for her people. As for the good guys, the forest god-animals would as soon rip the heads of intruders rather than co-exist with people and the eponymous heroine is a fanatic hell-bent on murder. It’s all very unconventional and in the manner in which it refuses to simplify a complex problem, commendable. From a story-telling point of view, however, such an approach is problematic. Beautiful as the film is to look at, it stays past its welcome and ultimately fails to satisfy."
Matthew Dillon

"At first glance, Princess Mononoke appears to be a simple tale of a boy having to overcome the odds to win the girl. But appearances can be deceptive. The film is a complex and intricate contemplation on our place in the world and our relationship to it. Rooted in Shinto beliefs, it examines mankind's attempts to tame nature - in the process disturbing its delicate balance. Technically, the film is to anime what Toy Story 2 is to CGI - it doesn't do anything particularly new, but it takes the art form to new heights. The sheer scale of the film, its stunning visuals and its elaborate plot combine to make it a significant moment in animation. If Princess Mononoke has a weakness, it is its 133 minute length which tests audience endurance. The story can't really keep the excitement going the whole time, and there are flat spots. But just when you think the film has gone to sleep; it jumps up and grabs you by the throat. It should be noted that Princess Mononoke is adult animation and definitely not suitable for children; with decapitations, mutilation and blood featuring prominently in the story. Princess Mononoke is a vibrant and exciting film - must-see for anime fans; and a definite should-see for everyone else."
David Edwards


(At left, Memory; Right, Spriggan)

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

PRINCESS MONONOKE
(Japan)

CAST: (Japanese version voices:) Yoji Matsuda, Yuriko Ishida, Yuko Tanaka, Kaoru Kobayashi, Masahiko Nishimura, Tsunehiko Kamijoe, Sumi Shimamoto, Akihira Miwa

DIRECTOR: Hayao Miyazaki

PRODUCER: Toshio Suzuki

SCRIPT: Neil Gaiman, Hayao Miyazaki

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Atsushi Okui

EDITOR: Hayao Miyazaki, Takeshi Seyama

MUSIC: Jo Hisaishi

RUNNING TIME: 133 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: BVI

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE DATE: February 8, 2001 (Sydney Only)

Was Part of the Japanime Festival, 2000 -

Sydney: Dendy Opera Quay, August 23 - 27

Melbourne: Kino Cinema, August 31, September 1 and 3

Brisbane: Dendy Cinema, September 7 – 10







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