Edinburgh Film Festival 2011/ Take 3

Day 3

Arriety (Kari-gurashi no Arietti) ***

Director Hiromasa Yonebayashi/ 94 mins 

A delicate animation in the familiar Studio Ghibli style, this for me was a much better interpretation of a favourite childhood book than the earlier Howl’s Moving Castle.

 

The story will be familiar to many, a coming of age for the main character Arriety and the development of her friendship with a large ‘human bean’, which contravenes with the rules governing the Borrowers’ existence. They face the dangers posed by cats, crows and a housekeeper who has the local extermination firm on call. 

 

Although mildly adapted, the film keeps true to the book’s spirit, and is a rewarding alternative to the more hectic mainstream animation from America.

 

The visual style is charming, with good attention to detail. The water droplets as they pour from a tiny teapot into an equally tiny cup are large globules, remind you that the Borrowers exist on a minuscule scale. The world that the borrowers live in is richly detailed, made up of cunningly artifice debris. The larger world is less colourful, reflecting in part the illness hanging over the young boy who befriends the Borrowers.

 

The sound made the film a success for me, as the smaller world was rich in close-up detail, a closed in acoustic set focuses on the small scale. In comparison, the human world was more resonant, with deeper hums and bass elements reinforcing the sense of danger for the small borrowers.

 

The film as it stands feels quite slow for audiences who come accustomed now to witty and action packed Toy Story and Shrek. The time is taken to develop the characters of the Borrowers and move the plot along slowly but inexorably. I appreciated the care being taken, but have some doubts that a young audience will keep still long enough to follow it.

 

 

While the festival programme lists an American voice cast, but Arriety is being shown with the original Japanese voices and English subtitles.

 

Reviewed by Andy Connor

 

 

Project Nim *****

Director James Marsh/ 93 mins 

Documentarian James Marsh follows his Oscar winning Man On Wire with an unusual fascinating story. The movie follows the life of a chimpanzee, Nim Chimpsky who after being raised by a human family was used in experimental research project in the 70’s into chimpanzees’ communicative skills through the use of sign-language.

 

Marsh uses the same techniques he used for his previous film, with a mixture of archive footage, new one to one interviews with everyone concerned with the project and also recreations of specific scenes. By giving a variety of different people and sources, the audience is given different points of view. 

 

It is hard to imagine if anyone by the end of the film will come to the conclusion that everything that the scientists did was done in good faith. In fact apart from a few of the researchers, the humans involved come across as very naive and incredibly stupid. 

 

There is a mixture of good and bad things that happened to Nim shown within the film. We see him playing with the family and scientists and generally having fun. But it also goes into the dark and violent side of Nim’s life and personality. Ultimately the only individual really harmed by the whole experiment both emotionally and physically is Nim himself. 

 

It is worth noting that some cinemagoers who are easily distressed, may find the animal research scenes very hard to watch.  

 

An astonishing film that will pull so many heart strings in different ways. This is a more compelling and effective documentary than Man On Wire.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

 

 

 

 

 

 

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