WHISPER OF THE HEART
MIMI WO SUMASEBA
1995, Studio Ghibli, 111 min, Japan, Dir: Yoshifumi Kondo

In the mid-1990s, the great Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki (SPIRITED AWAY) wanted to begin mentoring a new generation of animation artists in Japan. The result was WHISPER OF THE HEART, a gentle coming-of-age drama scripted, produced and storyboarded by Miyazaki and then directed by Yoshifumi Kondo (later animation director on PRINCESS MONONOKE), whom Miyazaki hoped would introduce new blood into his Studio Ghibli. Adapted from the manga by Aoi Hiragi, the film tells the story of Shizuku, a shy student with high school entrance exam worries and inchoate aspirations, who meets a magical cat on a commuter bus and follows it to a boutique where significant objects abound, each with a story of its own. Notable for its celebration of the mysteries of daily living, in WHISPER OF THE HEART "Miyazaki's script suggests that a sense of magic can exist, even in everyday Tokyo," according to animation historian Charles Solomon. The story of a young girl finding her voice both literally and figuratively, WHISPER OF THE HEART is a film tinged by tragedy: Yoshifumi Kondo died of a brain aneurysm in 1998. His only feature attests to his talent, and Miyazaki has yet to find an equally gifted protégé.


MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO
TONARI NO TOTORO
1988, Studio Ghibli, 86 min, Japan, Dir: Hayao Miyazaki

The third Studio Ghibli feature from former Toei animator turned writer-producer-director-entrepreneur Hayao Miyazaki tells the story of young sisters Satsuki and Mei Kusakabe, who move with their father into a new house near a vast forest, in order to be closer to their ailing, hospitalized mother. Discovering wondrous forest spirits, they also encounter Totoro, a giant, lumbering, bunny-esque creature. "Here is a children's film made for the world we should live in, rather than the one we occupy. A film with no villains. No fight scenes. No evil adults. No fighting between the two kids. No scary monsters. No darkness before the dawn. A world that is benign. A world where, if you meet a strange towering creature in the forest, you curl up on its tummy and have a nap. MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO has become one of the most beloved of all family films without ever having been much promoted or advertised." - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times.


SPIRITED AWAY
SEN TO CHIHIRO NO KAMIKAKUSHI
2001, Studio Ghibli, 125 min, Japan, Dir: Hayao Miyazaki

Hayao Miyazaki’s Academy Award-winning masterpiece was the biggest box office hit of all time in Japan and helped redefine the possibilities of animation for American audiences and a generation of new filmmakers. Wandering through an abandoned carnival site, 10-year-old Chichiro is separated from her parents and stumbles into a dreamlike spirit world, where she is put to work in a bathhouse for the gods, a place where all kinds of nonhuman beings come to refresh, relax and recharge. Here she encounters a vast menagerie of impossibly inventive characters - shape-shifting phantoms and spirits, some friendly, some less so - and must find the inner strength to outsmart her captors and return to her family. Combining Japanese mythology with Through the Looking Glass-type whimsy, SPIRITED AWAY cemented Miyazaki’s reputation as an icon of inspired animation and wondrous, lyrical storytelling. “Prepare to be astonished.” - Los Angeles Times “Epic and marvelous! Phantasmagoric!” - New York Times “One of the year’s best films!” - Roger Ebert.


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