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JDIFF 2015: While We’re Young // The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

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While We’re Young


while we're young

If you haven’t seen the trailer for While We’re Young, don’t watch it. It contains all the best jokes. The only joke from what I can recall that doesn’t feature in the trailer is when Ben Stiller must pitch his documentary to a hedge fund investor.

Stiller plays Josh, a documentary film-maker who has been trying unsuccessfully for the last ten years to complete his most recent work. He’s married to Cornelia (Naomi Watts), a producer whose father is a renowned documentary maker here played by the always great Charles Grodin.

Stiller is in a funk, unable to be motivated or take life by the scruff of the neck until he bumps into Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried) at a lecture he’s giving. Jamie and Darby are two carefree hipsters living in a loft Brooklyn with records, typewriters and a chicken. Inspired by their enthusiasm Stiller and Watts throw themselves head first into this new carefree existence, leaving their shackled new parent friends behind to swim in nappies and sleepless nights.

Things don’t work quite as planned but then how would we have a third act. Stiller mentions a quote from Godard about documentary being about others whereas fiction is about yourself. It’s obvious enough to see Baumbach’s cynical eye examining hipsters and new parent couples. Much has been made about the film as a commentary or satire about hipsters but it is equally Baumbach having a pop at the current documentary culture something he obviously feels strongly about having never ventured into this genre himself.

The performances are great across the board with Adam Driver slightly edging it for best in class. The film is much colder than the recent Frances Ha, which was written along with the star and his girlfriend Greta Gerwig so it’ll be interesting to see how their follow-up Mistress America fares when it comes out later in the year. The film allows you head nodding appreciation for various bits and your age will no doubt dictate your reaction, but this feels like too personal a film to ever allow you full access.

Writer-Director: Noah Baumbach
Year: 2014
Country of Origin: USA
Duration: 94 minutes
Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts

The Tale of The Princess Kaguya (kaguyahime No Monogatari)


the tale of the princess kaguya

Studio Ghibli has already cemented its legacy in the annals of film history, regarded as one of the finest studios in operation today. Their latest offering The Tale of The Princess Kaguya is certainly one of the most beautiful films you will see this year combining poignant water colours with charcoal etchings.

It tells the story of a tiny baby girl being sent down in a bamboo shoot and into the care of an older couple. She grows at an usual rate and her surrogate parents pushed mainly by the father believe her to be a princess and therefore must start to act like one. They move to the city where Kaguya is basically imprisoned within a mansion and has her free tomboy like spirit broken into a conformist Geisha with white face and black teeth.

All the characters are incredibly one dimensional, a dotting caring mother, an overbearing father who means well but does almost everything against his daughter’s wishes while Princess Kaguya herself must lead a cloistered life, waiting to be married off like a possession to the highest bidder.

While based on a 10th century Japanese folk tale called “The Tale of The Bamboo Cutter”, it is obvious that social norms of the time will jar with current practices but this still makes for depressing viewing. There seems to be no comment on these practices merely a telling of the tale which seems like a missed opportunity.

At just shy of 2 hours and twenty minutes this is certainly felt towards the end. The reveal of Kaguya’s origins doesn’t seem to gel with the rest of the film and comes as quite a shock which up until that point had contained some fantastical elements but stayed mainly grounded in reality.

Unquestionably an amazing feat in animation terms, it’s unfortunate the story-telling couldn’t quite match the same heights.

Director: Isao Takahata
Year: 2013
Country of Origin: Japan
Duration: 137 minutes
Writers: Isao Takahata, Riko Sakaguchi
Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, James Caan, Mary Steenburgen