Inherent Vice – I can’t say this movie really held my attention, and Beth said it didn’t for her either. It’s a Paul Thomas Anderson film based on a book by Thomas Pynchon, apparently following it pretty closely, and I’ve never read anything by him. I kind of get the impression that he’s pretentious, but I don’t really know, and I’m sometimes okay with pretentiousness. I mostly just know him from when he was on The Simpsons with a bag over his head.
I also remember David Lowery (the musician, not the director) mentioning that the Camper Van Beethoven song “All Her Favorite Fruit” is based on Gravity’s Rainbow. The movie takes place in 1970, with references to the Vietnam War and the Manson Family murders. The protagonist, played by Joaquin Phoenix, is a stoner private detective who agrees to help his ex-girlfriend dig up dirt on her new lover, and he eventually gets caught up in a convoluted plot involving drug smugglers and many people from his past. I’m not sure you’re even really supposed to be able to keep track of all that’s going on, but I can’t say I found it especially amusing either. I don’t want to say there’s too much drug use, because that doesn’t make a movie bad, but it doesn’t seem like there’s any point to most of it, other than to remind us of the setting.
Whisper of the Heart – This is a Studio Ghibli film written by Hayao Miyazaki, but not directed by him. It’s about a fourteen-year-old girl named Shizuki who loves to read fairy tales, and notices that a lot of the books she’s checked out from the library had also been borrowed by someone named Seiji Amasawa.
One day, she sees a chubby cat on a train, and follows him through town to an antique shop run by an old man, where she’s immediately drawn to a cat figurine from Germany. It turns out that the man is also Sheiji’s grandfather, and she’s met him a few times before, but found him annoying. They become friends, however, and he tells her how he wants to study violin making in Italy. Shizuki decides she wants to become a writer, and spends most of her time on a story about the figurine, whose name is Baron Humbert von Gikkingen, neglecting her schoolwork. Shizuki and Seiji both discover they have a lot to learn, and go on to high school, or at least they do in the English dub. Apparently Seiji says he’ll return to Italy after middle school graduation in the original Japanese. Throughout the movie, Shizuki plans to sing “Country Roads, Take Me Home” at graduation, and writes parody lyrics to it, while Seiji later plays it on the violin. Was John Denver big in Japan in the mid-nineties? In one scene, the antique dealer is fixing a clock that depicts a story about a fairy who’s been turned into a sheep, only taking her true form at midnight, at which time a dwarf king comes to look at her.
There are fairy tales about people being turned into sheep, but as far as I know this one was invented for the film. It does remind me that the name of the Irish Fairy Queen Oona could possibly mean “lamb.”
The Cat Returns – This is considered a spin-off of Whisper, but while that one mostly stuck to reality except in Shizuki’s imagination, this one was fantastic and kind of psychedelic in parts. A high school student named Haru saves the life of a cat who’s trying to carry a package across a busy street, and she has a dream that the King of Cats decides to shower her with gifts in order to thank her, as the cat she saved is his son.
She soon finds out that the dream is more real than she thought when she’s given catnip, cattails, and mice, none of which she appreciates. A talking cat invites her to the Kingdom of Cats, where she will marry the Prince. In order to avoid this, she follows a mysterious voice that tells her to follow the same cat from the train in Whisper, who goes by Muta, to the Cat Bureau. Here, she finds the Baron, now a living figurine. A bunch of cats show up to take Haru to their kingdom, and the Baron and Muta have to help her escape before she’s trapped there forever.
The Cat King is the main villain of the story, starting out grateful to Haru for saving his son, but then so determined to marry her off despite her wishes that he sends guards after her and launches missiles at the tower leading to the exit to the human world.