In association with the French Film Festival
Fresh off the news that Hayao Miyazaki is coming out of retirement to direct one last film, Studio Ghibli presents The Red Turtle, their first ever international collaboration with another studio, Wild Bunch. The film features little to no dialogue and centres around a man stranded on an island. A mysterious red turtle hinders his attempts to escape but over time the man slowly starts to accept his fate. Once he’s done so the real magic of the film unveils.
More details would risk spoilers but Studio Ghibli has yet to make a truly awful film and The Red Turtle is no exception. While it may not boast the contagious imagination of Spirited Away or the whimsical discovery of When Marnie was There this is still an intricate and gorgeously made piece of animation that will have audience members pondering the experience and its meaning long after they’ve seen it.
Director Michael Dudok de Wit greatly understands how to use visuals to tell a story, as showcased previously by his short Father and Daughter, and this film makes phenomenal display of this. The animation is stunning, making tremendous display of its colour palette, which ranges from the grainy yellow of the sand to the eerie yet strangely beautiful blue of the ocean. Light and shadow is utilised to awesome effect, bringing to life both the setting and the characters, making the film’s themes feel all the more relevant.
A mesmerising soundtrack compensates for the wise choice of little dialogue. Violins are particularly noticeable during both scenes of joy and despair, highlighting the musical and emotional range of the film. Once the man accepts his fate at the hands of the Red Turtle a lot of unexpected turns are taken. They bring happiness, love, disaster and the concept of letting go. The film tackles far more than it’s letting on but it treats its audience with enough maturity to let them work it out for themselves.
While The Red Turtle may not be Studio Ghibli’s best outing it’s a vastly intriguing film that teaches audience members the value of respecting lives other than your own. It’s engrossing, astute, splendidly crafted and has much more on its mind than just looking pretty. A definite must see for animation fans.
Mal de Pierre
From the Land of the Moon is a Palm d’Or-nominated French movie with good performances by Marion Cotillard, Alex Brendemühl and Louis Garrel. Featuring beautiful scenery of France and Switzerland and very interesting themes of female sexuality, it unfortunately suffers from a slow-paced plot and a highly unlikable main character.
The film is set in 1950s France. Its main focus is Gabrielle (Marion Cotillard), whose family forces her to marry the good-natured José (Alex Brendemühl) because they cannot deal with her openness about her sexual desires which embarrasses them in public. She agrees to marry José, but she immediately explains to him that she will never have sex with him. Later, she falls in love and lust with a sick veteran, André (Louis Garrel), whom she meets during her treatment for kidney stones. Gabrielle is not a heroine fighting for women’s freedom of sexual expression or the right to choose their husbands. She is just a self-centered woman obsessed solely with sex who does not care for anyone but herself (and the object of her desire; arguably a selfish act). Both characteristics are so heavily expressed that it is sometime difficult to watch for two full hours. Personally, the hardest part to watch for me was her indifference to her son. While mother-child relationship can be understood as yet another aspect of women’s sexuality (its purpose?), it is not at all questioned in the movie, thus simply serves as Gabrielle’s yet another negative quality.
The film seems to raise one interesting question though. In circumstances where a woman has her sexual expression oppressed and is made to marry a man she does not love, is it permissible to say that her husband is the closest to a good guy and she, although clearly the victim of social norms, the antagonist? Although I would argue against any character in this movie being fully likeable in the American blockbuster fashion, José’s defense of his wife and his sacrifice for her well-being are the most admirable qualities shown in From the Land of the Moon.