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Thursday24 July 2014

Top 50 films for architects: Spirited Away

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11: Spirited Away

Hayao Miyazaki, 2001

It’s easy to forget that this fantastical Japanese film is a cartoon

Spirited Away

Spirited Away’s Chihiro.

This is one of a continuing series of animated features by a Japanese team. It follows a little girl, Chihiro, unpleasantly whiny at first but changed into a paragon by her ordeal.

Her comically conventional family is looking for their new house in the suburbs but gets lost and ends in an abandoned theme park. Chihiro loses track of her parents as night falls
and a gang of mythical creatures troops over a bridge to a towering temple that’s actually a bathhouse.

Various threatening figures become friends but there’s always a further threat lurking somewhere in the vast building, full of precipitous spaces which Chihiro is sometimes pushed or pulled through at frightening speed. The best bits occur in scaling the outside of the tower, skidding down roofs or rickety stairs over a yawning void with a tiny train moving far below.

From collapsing stairs she jumps to a flimsy pipe snaking across the wall, which immediately begins to separate from the building. How is it that we completely forget it’s only a drawing? Partly it’s the speed with which things happen, partly the propulsion provided by the little heroine, partly the wealth of superfluous detail.

Settings are full of beautiful jokes on old standbys of Japanese art, like folding screens. The witch who rules the bath has rooms sheathed in menacing landscape screens in smouldering colours, and corridors lined with huge vases we whip past at top speed. There are other subversive themes too, including bold assaults on the Japanese fear of dirt.

Top 50 Films for Architects

  1. An Actor’s Revenge — Director: Kon Ichikawa, 1963
  2. Shoeshine — Director: Vittorio De Sica, 1946
  3. Pixote — Director: Hector Babenco, 1981
  4. Man With a Movie Camera — Director: Dziga Vertov, 1929
  5. The Saragossa Manuscript —  Director: Wojciech Has, 1965
  6. Once Upon a Time in the West —  Director: Sergio Leone, 1968
  7. Late Spring —  Director: Yasujiro Ozu, 1949
  8. Nil by Mouth —  Director: Gary Oldman, 1997
  9. The Iron Gate (Cairo Station) — Director: Youssef Chahine, 1958
  10. Apocalypse Now — Director: Francis Ford Coppola, 1979
  11. Spirited Away — Director: Hayao Miyazaki, 2001
  12. Cry of the City — Director: Robert Siodmak, 1948
  13. Faust — Director: Murnau, 1926
  14. The Mill and the Cross — Director: Lech Majewski, 2011
  15. My Childhood; My Ain Folk; My Way Home — director: BIll Douglas, 1972, 1973, 1978
  16. Madame de... — director: Max Ophuls, 1953

 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • The UK attitude towards animation is still a bit snotty, it seems... 'easy to forget is a cartoon', anyone?

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