Tuesday, August 22, 2017

In This Corner of the World

Check the Fandango and theater listings for this one carefully; AMC Boston Common, at least, is alternating subtitled and dubbed, and it's not always clearly labeled which is which. For right now, at least through Thursday (which appears to be its last day), subtitled shows get the "main" shows at 1pm and 7:15pm, while dubs are at 4:10pm and 10:20pm, which is not how things usually go there.

It's well worth checking out, although the PG-13 rating is about right; as much as I'm usually looking for good animated films with young-lady leads for my nieces, they will not be getting this under the tree; after a certain point, it's pretty constant sadness, and that's a tough gift. I'm kind of impressed that Shout! Factory got it into theaters; they are very much a home-video company. Weird to see the "Manga Films" logo right after theirs; I kind of figured that they quietly shut down in the late 1990s or aughts like a lot of specialty video companies did.

Kono sekai no katasumi ni (In This Corner of the World)

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 21 August 2017 in AMC Boston Common #16 (first-run, DCP)

Movies like In This Corner of the World would like to sneak up on the audience, but that's almost impossible; the end of World War II had been thoroughly covered in history class and in film, and if you're watching this one, you've probably seen the story of the Japanese homefront covered (unless you're young, but I'm not showing it to my nieces). It's probably for the best, then, that it softens the emotional hammer blow that many films of its genre aim for, and not necessarily as a result of being animated, though it would be a shame to use these filmmakers' talents entirely, or even mostly, for graphic misery.

The audience first meets Suzu Urano (voice of Rena "Non" Nounen) in December of 1933, a girl of about eight in the Eba section of South Hiroshima; she's prone to daydreams but good at art, wearing her pencils down to nubs much faster than her classmates. She's sweet and helpful, not really changing between then and 1942, when Shusaku Houjo (voice of Yoshimasa Hosoya), a young man from Kure, fifteen or twenty miles away, she has only met once or twice, proposes to her. Suzu accepts, and though it seems that the families have an ulterior motive - mother San (voice of Mayumi Shintani) is frail, so they put Suzu to work right away - she quickly becomes fond of her new family; even if sister-in-law Keiko (voice of Minori Omi) was expecting Shusaku to marry a more sophisticated girl, her 6-year-old daughter Harumi (voice of Natsuki Inaba) takes to her new aunt fast. There is strict rationing at this point in the war, and As a strategic shipyard, Kure is the frequent target of American air-raids, but Suzu's upbeat and determined personality may be what the family needs to get through it.

Seventy years later, it can be hard to set a drama against the war and the years leading up to it without the sense that the filmmakers are following a checklist or having their characters submerged by history rather than being guided by it. Fortunately, director Sunao Katabuchi and co-writer Chie Uratani (adapting a manga by Fumiyo Kono) seem to be mostly aware of this. They show a lot of dates on-screen, which initially tracks Suzu growing up but not only come quicker as the film moves into 1945 and the war comes to dominate the story of an 18-year-old girl marrying before she is truly an adult. The film can't help but note the passage of time moving from something general, a measure of one's life that is somewhat universal despite the specific backdrop, to one where specific events change the course of that life in previously unforeseeable ways. It's generally done with care and the style shifts enough to not make it There may be lines about going home to Hiroshima where it's safer than Kure, but they're a bit awkward, the filmmakers too aware of how they sound to milk them for irony even if they can't have them play straight. The story itself is often built of small things, from disconnected childhood memories to the culinary legerdemain necessary to stretch tiny rations, that coalesce nicely.

Full review on EFC.

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