Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, and released in 1992, ‘Porco Rosso’ follows an Italian WWI flying ace now acting as a bounty hunter targeting “air pirates.” A Strange curse transforms him into an anthropomorphic pig. Magic, action, love and intrigue drive this youthful and entertaining plot.
Released by Studio Ghibli in 1988, ‘Grave of the Fireflies’ is based on a semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by Akiyuki Nosaka. Written and directed by Isao Takahata.
Set in the Japanese city of Kobe, this film follows two siblings, Seita and Setsuko, as they struggle through the last months of the Second World War.
Released in Japan in 1989, ‘Kiki’s Delivery Service’ was written, produced and directed by Hayao Miyazaki as an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Eiko Kadono. The film was brought to the US in 1997 by The Walt Disney Corporation.
The story follows Kiki, a young witch, who goes to town with her black cat, Jiji, to make a living on her mandatory year away from her family to train. Kiki makes friends with the villagers as she delivers packages around town. A young by named Tombo follows her around. He is an inventor of flying machines and admires her flying abilities.
Kiki has a crisis of identity as she momentarily loses an the ability to fly and has a harder time understanding her feline companion. Kiki regains self confidence after she saves Tombo and others from an airship accident. She remains in the town and resumes her delivery service in contentment.
The film is very much about coming of age, moving away from home and the familiar to grow from a child into a young adult.
There are noticeable differences in plot between the Japanese and American versions of this film. In the American version, Kiki reunites with Jiji which does not occur in the original Japanese. Cultural references are also changed to become more timeless and thus more relatable over time.
This past summer, London was graced with a new staging of Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer Prize winning play, ‘A Street Car Named Desire’ at The New Vic. The London production featured Gillian Anderson (The X-Files, The Last King of Scotland) as Blanche DuBois, Ben Foster (Six Feet Under, Lone Soldier) as Stanley and Vanessa Kirby (Insomniacs, About Time) playing Stella. The production was directed by Australian director Benedict Andrews.
‘A Street Car Named Desire’ has won acclaim in both its live productions as well as the iconic film starring Marlon Brando and Vivian Leigh. The cast of The Young Vic’s production holds up in the face of the historic accolades dished out to previous casts.
The play is set in New Orleans in Summer. Blanche DuBouis (Anderson), a fading Southern Belle, shows up unannounced at her younger sister Stella’s (Kirby) apartment, where she lives with her working class husband Stanley (Foster). Blanche is an unreliable narrator of her circumstances. She hides crucial piece of her past and the reasons for leaving her teaching job in Mississippi.
As Blanche laments losing her appearance and not having the interests of a man, all the while drowning her sorrows in alcohol, Stella takes care of her sister, allowing Blanche to criticize her way of life, her husband and her home, as Stanley becomes more suspicious and irritated by Blanche.
Eventually Stanley discovers Blanche’s secrets, her dirtied past as a disgraced woman who turned to selling herself to the pleasures of men. He confronts her and eventually, on the night Stella is giving birth to his child, rapes her. Blanche then completely falls apart and in the end is institutionalized. Stella seems to be aware of the rape but remains with Stanley out of fear and obligation to their baby.
The relationship between Blanche and Stanley in this production was one of curiosity, flirtation, disgust, fear and tension. Although the two seem to mistrust and loathe one another, there is an element of intrigue and desire reverberating underneath. Anderson skillfully kept the illusion of Blanche alive throughout the production. Her approach to shaping the plot and upsetting the relationships in place were so skillfully executed that the moment of fracture was a visceral experience.
Foster’s Stanley, the working class bread winner and abusive husband, charmed the audience while making them uneasy, waiting for him to lose his temper. Foster’s chemistry and physicality with both women was highly sensual and familiar, adding to the on-stage chemistry driving the plot.
Kirby brought justice to Stella, an often overlooked and somewhat forgotten character in this story. This Stella was not just background, she was an important element to be contended with throughout this story, not only as the battered, pregnant wife and sister, but as a young woman, deeply in love and managing the chaos around her. Kirby brought three dimensionality to Stella, a treatment the character rarely receives.
The set design, as well as acting, contributed to the intensity of this piece. The set was built on a rotating device, which slowly revolved throughout the production, giving the audience, sitting in the round, a constantly changing view of the action. There were no solid walls of the apartment, allowing for consistent visibility of the action in the two room apartment no matter the seat. Due to this transparency, the audience watched as actors showered, used the toilet and changed clothing. There was no privacy, bringing the audience into the experience the characters had sharing a two room apartment in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
Almost every piece of theater streamed into The Michigan Theater by National Theater Live has been phenomenal. These screenings provide a wonderful opportunity to experience professional theater without flying half way around the world.
Where: The State Theater
When: Friday 24 and Saturday 25 October 2014 11:59 pm – doors open at 11:15
How Much: $7
An absurd cult classic, ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ is an erotic freak show with alien transvestites, Frankenstein doctors, monstrous creatures and suburban goody-goodies.
A fun production with full on drag pieces and plenty of opportunity for audience participation, ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ traditionally requires costumes and callbacks from its audiences.
The State Theater will provide ‘props’ for the show, $5 a bag. Items forbidden from the screening include but are not limited to: rice, confetti, alcohol, fake blood, toilet paper, outside food and drink, etc.
Come dressed up or face the potential wrath of die-hard fans. If you have never seen this film and/or never been to a showing such as this I highly recommend it. There is no better way to experience Rocky Horror than with a theater of lingerie-clad fans screaming responses and prompts at the screen for 100 minutes.
Let’s do the Time Warp again!
What: Castle in the Sky
Where: The State Theater
When: Wednesday 22 October 2014 – 7pm
How Much: $8 students, $10 general admissions, $7.50 Michigan Theater Members
The third film in Michigan Theater’s ‘The Studio Ghibli Collection: A 30-Year-Retrospective,’ ‘Castle in the Sky’ is a masterpiece of creative genius.
Released in 1986, ‘Castle in the Sky,’ written and directed by Hayao Myiazaki, was the first film produced by Studio Ghibli.
The story takes place in a steam-punk world, where flying ships are common. Sheeta and Pazu, a young boy and girl, race to discover the fabled floating city of Laputa before a foreign army and pirates discover it and harness it’s great and terrible power as a war machine.
This wonderful film is one of my favorites of Myiazaki’s creations.