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The Secret World of Arrietty (Karigurashi no Arrietty)

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Confession: The Secret World of Arrietty was my first Ghibli studio film.

And I enjoyed it very much.

What makes The Secret World of Arrietty such a pleasure is how it delights the imagination with a visually- and aurally-crisp change of perspective. The arresting vantage we’re able to inhabit through the little people is a formal thrill that complements well many of the film’s soulful themes relating to empathy. It’s a playful opportunity to see our world through new eyes. In Arrietty’s world, every rain drop, blade of grass, and insect takes on a luscious enormity. A curtain becomes a silky mountain to scale, a rat is now a formidable opponent, and a pin needle is employed as a trusty sword. The boom of thunder, the methodical insistence of clocks, and the “caw-caw” of a belligerent crow are all heightened to the ear. But what I most noticed about the animated world was its pointed emphasis of shadows. Everything — from the terrifying to the mundane to the beautiful — looms large. The effect achieves a sense of presence in this new world that most 3D films fail to capture.

But as we venture with curiosity into this secret world, we also see Arrietty and Shawn gaining new worlds of perspective from an increasingly curious friendship. And, as it turns out, what they learn from one another is no child’s play. Spotted not only by Shawn, but — more to her family’s detriment — by the house maid Hara (Carol Burnett), Arrietty puts her family in grave danger and forces them to move away and find a new home. While Shawn discovers that Arrietty and her family live in constant fear of impending danger, Arrietty finds that Shawn has had a heart condition since birth and, as a result, he must soon undergo an operation with a low success rate. The threat of extinction hovers over the borrowers; death is a potential reality that assaults Shawn’s already fragile state. The little girl’s fighting spirit encourages Shawn to persevere, while Shawn’s humbled desire for companionship — in the wake of his parents’ recent divorce — inspires in Arrietty a growing trust of others. Together, from their unique perspectives, they reinforce in one another a desire for reconciliation and permanence — for home.

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Confession: The Secret World of Arrietty was my first Ghibli studio film.

And I enjoyed it very much.

And best of all, there's plenty more where that came from.

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GOB-ComeOn.jpg

I didn't realize how apropos this image is. :)

Just got back from seeing the film. Liked it a great deal. One of the most enjoyable and beautiful films I've seen in ages (which is pretty much what I say about every Ghibli film).

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Coming to Blu-ray on 5/22, along with Castle in the Sky and Whisper of the Heart.

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Finally got to seeing this and thought that it was delightful. The scenery and worldbuilding was wonderful.

I stand behind what I had said earlier about the actual animation not being at the height of 2D animation achievement, although I will admit that some of the animation on the actual character of Arietty was better than I expected from seeing the trailer, being a step above the other characters (and a bit less of a step above some of the father's animation - which was fairly good in places). One of the things that really made this film's world work so well was the foley in the film, it was part of what helped to make the characters so appealing. The sound was so well done that it conveyed a living and elegant world. The music really helped in this regard as well, it was gentle and surreal. This is the kind of film that helps us to see our own world in a special way.

Oh... also. The film had great imagination, gentleness, and morality for children. What the Fox folks said is just plain nuts.

Edited by Attica

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Just posted an essay I wrote on Arrietty for Catholic Digest in honor of the home video release. Looking forward to watching it tonight, hopefully in Japanese if the younger kids are amenable).

The Secret World of Studio Ghibli

...The calmness with which [shawn] explains his predicament to Arrietty, and his acceptance of the inevitability of death, are qualities strikingly unlike American animated fare.

In a Hollywood cartoon, Pod’s insistence on moving the family after Arrietty is spotted by humans would lead to father-daughter conflict and an anti-prejudice theme. Arrietty would argue that humans aren’t all bad. Pod would get angry and punish her after learning that she had been talking to the boy. In the end, the boy would save the day, causing Pod at last to see the light. None of this happens in The Secret World of Arrietty.

Most distinctively Ghibli is the painterly beauty of the both the human and Borrower worlds, rendered with extraordinary persuasiveness and authority. Every plant and flower is a real species; architecture and objects are authentic in every detail..

Edited by SDG

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It's still playing the second-run (i.e., cheap) theater near me, so I still hope to see it on a big screen. Thanks for your good words, SDG.

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When I added this to my Netflix queue, the "more like Arrietty" list included: The Pirates! Band of Misfits, Dr. Seuss' The Lorax, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, John Carter, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Barbie: The Princess & The Popstar, and The Deep Blue Sea.

If you say so, Netflix.

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I'm happy to see that this film is getting some year-end love. Given the films I've seen this year this is likely to be a top-ten film for me.

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Me too, Anders. It's a top ten pick for me right now, also.

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It'll be on my list as well.

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I have no idea if I'll do a formal top-ten this year -- I didn't do one the last couple of years, either -- but I already included this film on my list of contenders.

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Best animated film of the year in American cinema.

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Justin Hanvey wrote:

: Best animated film of the year in American cinema.

You mean *cinemas*, plural, yes? Because the film is actually Japanese, not American. (FWIW, it was released in Japan way back in July 2010, but it didn't come to North American theatres until February 2012.)

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Incidentally, I agree that this was my favorite of the year's animated films, as far as North American release dates go. Which got me curious as to whether this film might be a contender for the Oscar for Best Animated Feature...

...but apparently not. You can click on the links in this sentence to see the lists of animated films submitted for Oscar consideration in 2011, 2012 and 2013, and The Secret World of Arrietty isn't on *any* of them. I wonder why that is.

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I know it's Japanese, it was released in Japan in 2010. that's why I said American Cinema, since we here in America saw it in 2012

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Right, that's why I said you meant "cinemas", i.e. theatres. "Cinema" in the singular usually refers to a country's film industry or film culture, and this was *not* a product of American cinema.

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Eh, maybe my grammar was wrong but I was trying to distinguish that we can only see it as best animated movie of this year if we limit it to its American release.

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Finally got around to watching this, and I was hoping it would get slammed by Movieguide for anti-capitalist propaganda. But it turns out they liked it, although it is "marred by a Romantic, environmentalist message of taking 'only what you need.'"

(I don't even know what that sentence means.)

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Finally got around to watching this, and I was hoping it would get slammed by Movieguide for anti-capitalist propaganda. But it turns out they liked it, although it is "marred by a Romantic, environmentalist message of taking 'only what you need.'"

I don't get it...would a good Christian message involve taking more than you need?

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Finally got around to watching this, and I was hoping it would get slammed by Movieguide for anti-capitalist propaganda. But it turns out they liked it, although it is "marred by a Romantic, environmentalist message of taking 'only what you need.'"

I don't get it...would a good Christian message involve taking more than you need?

Perhaps exercising true Christian dominion over creation means taking as much as you want.

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Finally got around to watching this, and I was hoping it would get slammed by Movieguide for anti-capitalist propaganda. But it turns out they liked it, although it is "marred by a Romantic, environmentalist message of taking 'only what you need.'"

I don't get it...would a good Christian message involve taking more than you need?

Well. It seems to folks of their mindset environmentalism is "liberal" or "new-agey" and so therefore anything to do with an environmentalist message is then obviously liberal and therefore obviously wrong. It doesn't therefore matter if a message of "taking only what you need" makes completely good sense.

Or that this could be an opportunity to find common ground with those outside their fold.

Edited by Attica

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Finally got around to watching this, and I was hoping it would get slammed by Movieguide for anti-capitalist propaganda. But it turns out they liked it, although it is "marred by a Romantic, environmentalist message of taking 'only what you need.'"

I don't get it...would a good Christian message involve taking more than you need?

Perhaps exercising true Christian dominion over creation means taking as much as you want.

laugh.png

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P.S. Did I really never link to this blog post I did responding to a correspondent dismayed that I was promoting a movie that glorifies...stealing? (Apologies if I'm reposting this.)

Reader response to the lovely family film The Secret World of Arrietty, I’m delighted to say, has been almost entirely positive. However, I did receive one negative email from a reader who not only didn’t enjoy the film, but considered it downright immoral. Why? Because the Borrowers, tiny people who live in secret in big people’s homes, survive by “borrowing” (i.e., taking) the things they need from the big people. Here’s the complaint:

I heard you review
The Secret World of Arrietty
on the radio after taking my granddaughter to the movie. I was appalled that you rated it so highly. From the moment I started watching the film, I felt it went against Catholic values and teachings. Since when is it okay for someone to enter someone else’s home to “borrow” things and it not be called STEALING? When I was growing up that would have been called breaking the commandment “Thou shall not steal.” I’ve known many children whose attitude is “Finders keepers, losers weepers.” They see nothing wrong with stealing because they’ve had no moral instruction. Please consider reviewing this movie again. I would like a reply as I plan to contact the radio station on this matter.

Really? Are the Borrowers thieves? Let’s think it through. (Some Arrietty spoilers ahead.)

My reply considers traditional Catholic catechesis, principles of natural law set forth by Thomas Aquinas and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and how such principles would apply, in theory, to the condition of the Borrowers.

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