For Reel


The Secret World of Arrietty (2010)
February 26, 2012, 9:41 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi

It is startling to watch the latest import from Studio Ghibli in an American multiplex. Prior to the feature, one is bombarded with trailer after trailer of children’s fare, often riddled with the same lame jokes, pop culture references, and a homogenized style of computer animation. Conversely, the calm serenity with which fantasy is treated in Ghibli’s best work – take, for instance, that magical sequence when Totoro appears at the bus station – sets an enchanting pace that caters to the imaginations of the young and the old alike. While The Secret World of Arrietty was not directed by Hayao Miyazaki – the masterful storyteller of Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke – veteran animator Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s first effort is worthy of the studio’s impressive track record. The picture is an adaptation of the 1952 Mary Norton book, The Borrowers, in which a miniature family lives underneath the floorboards of a house and “borrows” items from their human hosts. Early on in the film, Arrietty embarks on a “borrowing” with her father, and the sequence is a masterpiece of sound editing. Noises shift in tone and volume when cutting between the subjective perspective of the borrowers and the objective reality of the room as the audience, full-sized, understands it, and, more refreshingly considering the loud, cynical work of the lesser animation houses, Yonebayashi makes the most out of silence, contributing to the suspense with a nearly-noiseless soundtrack, containing only small footsteps and an ambient hum.

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