September 21, 1945… that was the night I died.
Just watched this powerful, gorgeous film again last night (you can find complete versions online at surfthechannnel.com).
Animation or no, it’s one of my favorite films of all time. The ineffable beauty of childhood innocence and the brother/sister bond comes up against the unspeakable evil of the firebombing of a nation, already defeated, whose buildings were mostly made of paper and wood. Not to mention the indifference of an adult population with its own survival issues.
What imagination: the visual pairing of dying fireflies with scenes of incendiary devices trailing gently down from the American planes. What acid observation: the doctor tells the boy Seita that Setsuko, his deathly ill younger sister, needs food, not medicine, and turns his back.
(FWIW I just read that in its theatrical premier in Japan, it played on a double bill with another Studio Ghibli masterpiece, My Neighbor Totoro. That seemed weird to me at first glance, but on reflection makes perfect sense).
For liking, nay, loving this, I have been accused of being a “great soft shite” by a friend, and the NME has weighed in on the entire God Help the Girl project in a most negative way. BUT I LOVE it. And I am especially taken with the singing of Catherine Ireton, whose easy flow from conversational to soaring is a wonderful thing, and reminds me of a Sinatra in his prime or a Merle Haggard before he wrecked the upper half of his range.
And the entire sensibility of the group and the video I find sweet in the best way. They played one of their first gigs in a small chuch, which is weirdly appropriate (see it here), and there’s a sneaky sort of proselytizing going on, but one I personally can handle.
“I feel like I have God for a pal because no one else would have me,” Murdoch writes in an online journal entry. “Maybe that’s the basis for a lot of religion. He’s the invisible friend that it’s OK to have as an adult.”
In fact I like that quite a bit.