Sunday, November 19, 2006

Grave of the Fireflies ***1/2

Since the late 80's, Disney has gotten better at dubbing some of the anime that has been coming in from Japan. Spirit Away was a terrific example of truly great dubbing...if I remember correctly Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (which I haven't seen in years) had great dubbing as well. Now contrast it with something like Castle in the Sky, in which they gave a child character a grown man's voice, implying a midget. Or Grave of the Fireflies. In Grave, the voice actress (Rhoda Chrosite, who's biography is not supplied on IMDb) who does a toddler girl named Setsuko, is clearly a grown woman. To sound like a Toddler, Chrosite uses a very whiny voice the wrong side of Joey Lauren Adams combined with a sort of whisper. It was so grating it completely distracted me from the rest of the movie. Although Takahata had made what was clearly a beautiful film I couldn't focus on it for a minute. All I could think was "shut up!" Since I was only able to appreciate the scenes where Setsuko does not speak, I feel I was robbed of an emotional payoff somehow. Not that I know there would ever be one in the first place. I'd have to see the original Japanese language version to judge that.

Now...on the film. There were many scenes I found quite beautiful. There is the chilling scene when we first see the bombs dropped, and we watch them makes trails in the sky and whistle quietly before the explode. A lovely scene where protagnoist orphans Setsuko and her caring teen brother Seita light a cave they are living in with fireflies (which, with a little imagination, become a Japanese Navy parade in Seita's mind). And I have trouble forgetting the dread and horror that filled my stomach when Seita discovers his sister eating dirt balls. Or when he sees his mother in the makeshift hospital. Homeless people picnicking on the beach. A montage that skips through Setsuko's life. And my favorite scene, where Setsuko cries over her mothers "sickness," and Seita tries to distract her by performing tricks on a bar nearby (Setsuko does not pay attention).

The film might be a little ovverated. It is not without flaws (somehow a scene showing Seita and Setsuko as happy ghosts seems tacked on to the rest of the movie) but I was able to appreciate it as one of the greatest films I have seen from that year. Amazing it came out on the same double bill as My Neighbor Totoro.

But every time that girl opens her mouth...!

No comments: