25 January 2006 | KubricksRube
Ernst Lubitsch is reborn
Most action movies are pure fluff, relying on clichés, special effects, and bravado to win over the mostly male audiences that keep them in the pipeline. They are junk food. They provide the illusion of satisfying us but they are not nutritious or filling at all. But then there are those action movies which are so solid, well-written, well-acted, well-paced, and well-done that we don't even think of them as action movies. They are the action movie gourmet meals. Think of Lawrence of Arabia or even Full Metal Jacket. Movies like that are outside the traditional action realm, and tend to have much wider appeal. They are entertaining and smart.
Likewise, the action movie's female counterpart, the romance movie, tends to be fluff, relying on overwrought acting and writing, schmaltzy music, and clichés. Even rarer than the "good" action movie is the good romance movie. A movie that realistically depicts love and interpersonal relationships without relying on any clichés or overwrought acting or writing. City Lights is one example of this, the works of Ernst Lubitsch are another. Think of his movie The Shop Around the Corner. It's a love story that works by depicting real "moments" (as critics like to call them). Instead of being a hammy soap opera, these movies work by touching us on a real level. You don't cringe watching these, you don't say to yourself "Who talks like that?" and you don't hear schmaltzy music all of the time to let you know what emotion you are supposed to be feeling.
I'm bringing all this up to make the point to any guy who is reading this that "Yes, there are good romance movies you will like." Whisper of the Heart is a movie like that, and BOY is it a good one. You've heard of the rare romance movie that both men and women like equally, this is one of them. Guys will like it because it isn't junk food. Comparing this movie to typical romance garbage like Up Close and Personal is like comparing a piece of filet mignon to a Slim Jim. People talk like real people, they have real problems that 14-year-olds have, and they relate to their family like real 14-year-olds do.
This movie should be easy to find on DVD and for once I do not hesitate to say "watch it dubbed." Miyazaki himself says that his movies should be seen in the language of the viewer, and not subtitled, so that you can devote your full attention to the image on the screen and not to reading subtitles (I make the exception for Princess Mononoke which IMO has a inferior dub). It was written by Miyazaki but directed by another very talented man who unfortunately died not long after making this, his only film. The influence of Miyazaki shows in this film, although the animation style is a little different, and the style of the backgrounds is *very* different. I do not know what process was used, but I'd say they based all of the backgrounds on real photographs. The lighting in them is so well that some of them could easily pass for photographs on an NTSC display unless you look at them long and closely. The pacing in this film is also very well-done. Too many directors hurry through pacing, they don't want there to be any silences because they don't know how to use silence. This director does.