Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Film: My Neighbor Totoro

Hayao Miyazaki is retiring. His movies make such an impression on me, and just hearing the name Miyazaki makes me excited.

The first time I saw a Studio Ghibli film, I was completely drawn into the contrast of mundane day to day life and a bizarre children's fantasy world in My Neighbor Totoro. I was an adult feeling enthralled like a giddy little girl. As Satsuki and Mei ran around their new house in the countryside, I too felt the joy in exploring unfamiliar rooms and closets and the surrounding outdoors as a child. The house was also home to strange, black, fuzzy dust balls that scurried away in large masses like bug colonies. I thought I had a rich imagination, but apparently, not as rich as Miyazaki's.

My Neighbor Totoro made me want to believe in the fantasies, even the parts that straddled a fine line between fun and mildly unsettling. For instance, there is a scene where Satsuki, carrying a sleeping Mei piggy back, encountered Totoro wearing a single green leaf as a hat on a rainy day at a bus stop. The interaction between Satsuki and Totoro was so simple and so sweet. A bewildered Satsuki peered up at Totoro from underneath her umbrella while a plush and awkward looking Totoro stared off in the distance. Satsuki offered Totoro a spare umbrella and the two stood there side by side holding up their open umbrellas.

Suddenly, the cuteness of the scene was interrupted by a cat bus that scampered up through the darkness with its 12 legs and Cheshire cat grin. I remember thinking, "what the hell??" and asking, "are those red tail lights ... rats?" The cat bus in all it's furry glory stretched open a window on the side of its body to allow Totoro inside and carried him away, leaving a baffled Satsuki behind still standing at the bus stop. Somehow, Miyazaki managed to create something charming by combining cuteness and total obscurity. I am nearly 30, and I still love Totoro. If he existed, I, too, would happily stand next to him at a bus stop.

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