Saturday, 20 June 2009

Now I wish I were as good as Art Lozzi.

I mentioned both 5 cm Per Second and My Neighbours the Yamadas in my last post, in the context of "I might talk about one or the other next time". Then I thought, "Well, they're practically polar opposites visually so why not talk about both?"

In brief: Yamadas is about visual spareness.5 cm is the opposite: it's about visual indulgence.
Personally I find Yamadas so visually pleasing it's one of the few examples of japanese animation which I prefer watching dubbed in English: it's just too appealing for me to want to spend lots of time reading subtitles (and I can read subtitles pretty quickly!)

While watching 5cm, though, I kind of felt overwhelmed. It gets jokingly called 5 Wallpapers Per Second, since you can do a frame-grab at pretty much any time and use the resulting image as a desktop wallpaper. But it kind of felt too...self-consciously pretty to me.

Everything is painted in lavish, slavish detail. The pacing is fairly slow, which I suppose makes sense, as you'd want to spend time looking at stuff like this. On the other hand, though, this much details feels kind of...oppressive, even aggressive, to me, so I can't really relax while watching it.

Matsuko Yamada knows how to enjoy the view. That's kind of how Yamadas makes me feel: like I can just take time out, sit back, and enjoy the natural peacefulness of life as it passes by.
Why not eat a banana while I'm at it?
Maybe I'm being a bit harsh on 5cm. Despite the mass of detail, the colours are almost always nice (as you'd expect from the Japanese), and, at least most of the time, the images still read reasonably well.
You do get the odd shot like this, though.

It's also not helped by the fact that the character animation really isn't up to the standard of the backgrounds.
Can't really show it in stills, of course, but, well, they're pretty wobbly. I don't mind the ultra-plain designs all that much, but the animators can't keep their faces (or hands, or limbs, or any other part) straight, which distracts a fair bit. That said, there's lots of very still shots so it's not always a problem.
Conversely, I find the animation in Yamadas as enjoyable as every other aspect of the film.
Even the most detailed and concentrated bits, such as the spectacular "journey of life" sequence at the beginning, are handled with a real control and lightness of touch so that they don't feel out of place with the rest of the film.Bonus random inbetween! This was a lucky frame-grab, I didn't even notice until I looked at the file.

5cm does have some really nice atmosphere...
...but so does Yamadas.
5cm was also painted entirely digitally, which makes it feel pretty artificial. There's no real texture (you can occasionally see those dodgy sorts of digital-painting-marks in the clouds, too). While the characters in Yamadas were drawn and coloured digitally, I'm pretty sure the backgrounds were actually painted with watercolours. Bonus points for that.

Here's a little bit I really like. Takashi pulls his head back in through the car window...
...then winds it back up.You don't see any of the window or the door or the handle, but you know exactly what's going on. And the look of the film is so well thought-out and believable you completely buy it! Cleverness like this drives me bonkers!

I'm kind of just mouthing off here. My Neighbours the Yamadas is my second favourite Ghibli-movie-nobody's-ever-bloody-heard-of (Only Yesterday is my favourite, and you're all big losers for not knowing Isao Takahata's name). While getting frame-grabs for this I got 66 images, and spent a good while just watching random bits of it. I could only be bothered with 17 from 5 cm Per Second. I don't really dislike it or anything, I guess I just expected more (or maybe less) since it'd been hyped a fair bit before I got round to watching it (then again it's partly my own fault as I was very slow doing that and I let the hype build up). I did like some aspects of the story, though it didn't involve me emotionally like I expected (lots of people claim it's the greatest tearjerker ever), and it kind of fell apart at the end. I could watch Yamadas again and again, though, and talk about it forever.

Maybe I'll watch Only Yesterday again. Now THERE'S a film that makes me cry! Hey, maybe I'll talk about it some time! Then again I don't know if I'd be able to do anything other than reiterate the words of my former-tutor-now-employer Damian, who introduced me to it.
Also I'd need to find a better program to watch/take framegrabs from DVDs, since VLC is horeshit.
Go eat a pineapple!

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