Initially daily but now sporadic blog about anime and world animation with a specific focus on the artists behind the work. Written by Ben Ettinger.
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Sunday, July 8, 2007

09:01:32 pm , 443 words, 1072 views     Categories: Animation, Misc, Live-action

Postmen in the Mountains

Wandering around Chinatown yesterday I wandered into a DVD shop where I picked up a DVD of a film I'd never heard of but that looked up my alley, Postmen in the Mountains. Watching it it felt like it was from the early 80s, but in fact it's a film from 1999. Its washed out color palette is a delight, and the film is a delight, one of the most moving I've seen in a while. The sort of film where nothing much happens but each moment is filled with meaning and tremendously moving. My eyes were burning the whole time. It brought back memories of crossing the Pyrenees with my dad a few years ago, which certainly helped make it more resonant to me.

One-track-minded person that I am, I couldn't help but think that this is the sort of thing I've been wanting to see done properly in animation. The film does what films rarely manage to do, convey the sensation of another human being beside you. Normally film is a medium where the medium is foregrounded and human warmth is a distant dream, but this film did what few films I've seen do - evoke that strange tingling sensation of uncertainty and tentativeness when there's someone there beside you. What it is to be alive, basically. Animation is a tool that can evoke reality by careful selection and emphasis, and for some reason I felt that would have been a good way to achieve what they did here. Hara strikes me as the closest to this I've seen in animation. Been feeling particularly sick of anime these days and wanting to see a film that goes back to something more fundamental like this.

I'm excited that I'll be able to see Tokyo Story on the big screen for the first time in over a decade in the next few days.

I saw Ratatouille and thought it was perhaps the best CGI film I've seen. I'll admit no previous CGI films did much for me, but this was a very solid and most of all tremendously entertaining and engaging film, even aside from the technical aspects, which are obviously without par in the genre. For the first time ever for me there were even moments of movement that I enjoyed as movement. I particularly liked the bit where Remy is about to run out of the restaurant at the beginning but gets lured back to fix the soup. For some reason a lot of the drama flow and humor felt slightly Miyazaki-influenced. Was shocked to realize that one of my favorite actors, Ian Holm, voiced Skinner, but I didn't even realize it.

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6 comments

Benjamin De Schrijver
Benjamin De Schrijver [Visitor]  

Mmmh… I haven’t seen Hara’s latest yet (not much of his previous work either), but if I had to pick a film that comes close to giving me that feeling, it’d be Mimi Wo Sumaseba. Or perhaps Omohide Poro Poro.

07/08/07 @ 23:30
Benjamin De Schrijver
Benjamin De Schrijver [Visitor]  

(by the way: I just received the Mind Game DVD-box special after ordering it from Japan, and I was wondering whether you know about any subtitles/transcripts of the extra’s in English or French? Particularly the Director’s Commentary segments. I doubt it, but it’s worth asking… the segments picked seem to indicate the commentary could be pretty insightful. Cheers!)

07/09/07 @ 14:10
Justin Sevakis
Justin Sevakis [Visitor]  

I LOVE Postmen in the Mountains. It’s such a beautiful and subtlely understated film.

It got a brief theatrical release in the States (Roger Ebert gave it 4 stars) but the DVD release is so bad it’s borderline unwatchable. Perhaps I should import the Chinese version. Did your disc have subtitles?

Interesting that others bring up Takahata’s films as animated examples of that feeling of elation at being alive. The one that always comes to my mind is My Neighbors the Yamadas. For some reason, that beautiful tangent that starts off with the wedding cake bobsled makes me weep like a fangirl every time.

07/09/07 @ 20:52
huw_m
huw_m [Member]

I’d like to see Ratatouille, but it doesn’t come out down under until September. At least I can go see that Pixar exhibition in Melbourne in the mean time.

Oh, congratulations on 400 posts! (I counted the archives, heh) - I’m looking forward to whatever you decide to write in the future, and I’m sure everyone else is. Thanks for writing such interesting stuff over the years!

07/10/07 @ 08:41
Ben [Member]  

Huw:

Cool, I didn’t even realize that. Thanks for pointing that out! And thank you for your kind words. I’ll take this moment to offer humble thanks to everyone who’s read my blog all these years.

Justin:

My disc did indeed have English subtitles, so you might want to hunt it down, though I can’t vouch for whether or not the quality is any better than that of the (US?) DVD release. I had no idea it had gotten a theatrical run. It sure deserves it. I’m a huge hiking addict myself, so I was in heaven watching that movie.

Benjamin:

I know what you mean. Hara is no Takahata, but Takahata liked Coo enough to call it a masterpiece, so I’ve got hopes for the film.

Unfortunately, no, I’ve never seen anyplace with subs for those extras. If I recall correctly, it was particularly nice hearing Yuasa go into detail about the ‘montage’ scenes, explaining the significance of shots that pass by extremely quickly but actually considerably contribute to understanding the characters’ back stories. He also talked at length about each little detail in the escape sequence, such as the fact that the object that floats Yan to the surface is a massive version of the bento box her mother gave her as a child (or something, I don’t recall exactly), the memory of which she’d treasured all those years.

07/10/07 @ 14:27
The Great Mr Chibi
The Great Mr Chibi [Visitor]  

Howdy! I’ve been reading your blog for a little while now, and have greatly enjoyed in particular your posts on Denno Coil. I was drawn to the show by its animation, and your informative articles on each episode have been delightfully illuminating.

My eye couldn’t help but get caught, though, when you wrote: “For some reason a lot of the drama flow and humor felt slightly Miyazaki-influenced.” As it turns out, Miyazaki is quite an influence on Pixar, to the point that John Lasseter is close friends with Mr. Miyazaki (at Pixar’s studios in California, they even have a life-sized Catbus head, given as a gift to them by Hayao himself during his visit there). I even remember a quote from one of the animators at Pixar saying, “Whenever we get stuck on a scene or run out of ideas, we just pop in a Miyazaki film, and when it’s done we feel inspired again.”

07/30/07 @ 16:34