The Tale of the Princess Kaguya ***Dir: Isao Takahata. Animation with the voices of: Aki Asakura (original version), Chloe Grace Moretz, James Caan, Mary Steenburgen (English dub). 137 mins. Cert: U
Princess Kaguya’s Oscar nod – in an animation field missing The Lego Movie – actually proves far less instructive than 2013’s inside-Ghibli doc The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, where a beleaguered Hayao Miyazaki pushed through The Wind Rises while stablemate Isao Takahata skulked off-screen, mired in production delays. The latter’s decade-in-the-planning take on a Japanese folk legend has a bounteous opening – a woodsman discovers a child in a bamboo shoot, and raises her as a princess – before a flat midsection that sees Kaguya wait around her palace for treasure-hunting suitors. Here, Takahata appears to press his own passivity and indecision onto his character; for a narrative about life’s transitory nature, it doesn’t half start to drag. Lush, hand-painted images offer plentiful consolation, but its beauty forms a gilded cage: up until the undeniably moving final movements, it just feels several shades too constrained to fully honour its heroine’s restless, questing spirit.
The Tale of the Princess Kaguya is now screening in selected cinemas, in both dubbed and subtitled prints.