Sunday, March 22, 2009

Whispers of the Heart

Are you aching for a flick that shows love as only a junior-higher can truly understand it? Love that's full of aching, burning questions, overpowering emotions, far reaching (groundless) promises and confusing, embarrassing urges? If so, have I got the movie for you. If not, go ahead and stop reading now. Whispers of the Heart is to junior high love, what a Sixteen Candles or My So Called Life is for High School love, a case study from the ground floor. This 1995 animated drama was the only one the amazing art director Yoshifumi Kondo directed before meeting an early, untimely demise. His visual style defined Studio Ghibli and brought to life animated movies that our family loves like Princess Mononoke, Pom Poko, Porco Rosso and the utterly fantastic Kiki's Delivery Service. Plus, he was lead animator for Lupin III in the 70's and, hey, if that doesn't give you a high level of animator cred, what will? This flick is predictable and not nearly as good as other bits he's done like Kiki or Pom Poko, but it's clearly heartfelt and very sweet. If you are within the target audience, I'm guessing you will love this movie as it is brimming with all the wonder and angst that comes with young love. Hayao Miyazaki intended this to be Kondo's introduction as Ghibli's new head director, allowing Miyazaki to retire, but that never happened. Instead, we get a little glimpse at what happens when a master takes over full control of a single, simple little project. The result is something that's not earth shattering but a flick that's interesting all the same and certainly worth a watch, especially if you're, say, an eighth-grade girl.


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