Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Fantasia Film Festival 2015 Film Review - Miss Hokusai

Haniko Sugiura was a Japanese Manga (Comic) Artist focused on the Edo period in Japan's history when the fighting amongst different warrior factions eased and the merchant class came to the front of Japanese society. A shift from years of internal warfare lead the inhabitants of Edo (modern day Tokyo) to other pursuits chiefly geisha's, brothels and Art. Since Sugiura was a devotee to the Edo period it is fitting that her manga centered on O-Ei the daughter of the most famous artist of the period Tetsuzo would be the material that director Keiichi Hara and screenplay writer Miho Mauro adapted for their film Miss Hokusai.

Set in 1814, O-Ei is living in several different worlds.  She's assistant to her famous Artist father whose only interest is to paint.  As E-Oi states early on in the film her nutty father doesn't clean, doesn't smoke so when a home becomes cluttered with crumpled disregarded sketch paper they just pack up and move elsewhere. Her second and most compelling role is big sister to O-Nao who was born blind and lives with her mother. E-Oi's parents are divorced and Tetuszo does not have any interest in a blind daughter perhaps for superstitious reasons or that being blind O-Nao cannot appreciate or help with his art. The third area is her personal life. He dad taunts her remarking that she is not a good liar therefore she is unable to get a husband. E-Oi has many potential suitors among the apprentices and Artist that come around to see her father for his wisdom and guidance.  The main one is Hatsuguro who our protagonist regularly moves towards then pulls away from throughout the film.

Production I.G. presents a superior animated feature. The characters are crisp and their movements sharp. In one memorable sequence  O-Ei and O-Nao take a boat ride that brings them beneath the main bridge where the merchants sell their wares.  The viewer is brought right into O-Nao's world as she picks out the distinct noises from the bridge above. Another key moment involves the sisters as the elder gives the younger a piggyback.  Their father walking towards them does not acknowledge the pair. The sky shifts from light to dark as the family members intersect O-Nao having no idea that her father has failed to acknowledge her once again.

Miss Hokusai is a historical tale set in the Japanese Edo period. Tokyo in its infancy.  The production gives an educational view of the main elements of the era. Merchants, Artists, Ladies and Drink are at the players as a society shifts its attention from years of regional wars to a united country.  It's a film I can recommend.

*** Out of 4.

Miss Hokusai | Keiichi Hara | 2015 | Japan | 93 Minutes.

Tags:  Animated Feature, Tetsuzo Hokusai, Painting, 1814, Edo,  Japanese History,  Blindness, Merchants, Brothels, Apprentice, Rival, Blindness.

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