Miyazaki’s most endearing film (and most endearing character) is almost certainly My Neighbour Totoro; few films have enjoyed such a devoted following or had such cultural impact (it was instrumental in introducing the glories of anime — and Miyazaki — to the world). Totoro is the deceptively simple tale of two girls, Satsuki and Mei, who move with their father to a house in the country while their mother is in hospital. They soon discover that the surrounding forests are home to a family of Totoros, gentle but powerful creatures who live in an ancient camphor tree and are seen only by children. These magical beings take the girls on spinning-top rides through the tree tops, and introduce them to a furry, multi-pawed Catbus. The latter is a nod to Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire Cat; the Totoros, oversized panda-like creatures with bunny ears, are based on Miyazaki’s own childhood imaginings. Beneath the film’s playfulness and narrative simplicity lie depths of wisdom; My Neighbour Totoro is infused with an almost spiritual reverence for the power of nature (a philosophy tied to the ancient Shinto belief that every object in nature has a soul), and leaves viewers with a great sense of wonder at the beauty, mystery, and preciousness of the world around us. Colour, 35mm, in Japanese with English subtitles. 86 mins.
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