What's on at Phoenix Picturehouse - Vintage Sundays
East Germany 1957. English narrated version.
A proud and beautiful princess is punished for her arrogance when a bewitched suitor (in the form of a bear) steals her away to an enchanted garden. There, through a series of gripping trials, she learns that kindness, humility and bravery are the routes to friendship, love and happiness. Inspired by stories by the Brothers Grimm, this East German fairy tale enchanted a generation when broadcast as a three-part black-and-white miniseries under the BBC’s ‘Tales from Europe’ banner in the 1960s. Today’s viewers are in for an even greater treat; prepare to be bowled over by the original feature’s joyous riot of colour.
One of the most popular and enduring films ever made, Frank Capra's IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE is a gloriously sentimental testament to homely small-town moral values.
Masterfully crafted, the film opens with angels discussing George Bailey (James Stewart), a man so beset with problems that he contemplates a Christmas-time suicide. As George prepares to jump from a bridge his guardian angel Clarence Oddbody intervenes and shows him how badly Bedford Falls would have turned out without his good deeds. Filled with a renewed joy of life George returns to his family for Christmas.
James Stewart gives one of his finest, most affecting performances and the film looks better than ever in its new restoration.
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata, GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES is an indelible anime about a brother and sister trying to survive during the Second World War.
Caught up in the firebombing of Kobe in 1945, Seita and his little sister Setsuko lose their mother and their home. Unable to contact their father on the frontline, they flee to the country, stealing or begging for food. The societal breakdown that inevitably followed the razing of the cities means they are left truly alone to fend for themselves.
Undeniably sad but stunningly rendered, this animation does not flinch from the true human tragedy of war.
Miyazaki’s superbly animated tale is considered to be one of the best-loved family films of all time. The story follows Satsuki (Hidaka) and Mei (Sakamoto), two young girls who find their new home is by a mystical forest inhabited by a menagerie of fantastical creatures called Totoros. They befriend O-Totoro, the biggest and eldest of them, and king of the forest. While the girls' mother lies sick in hospital, O-Totoro takes them on a magical adventure and helps them to understand the realities of life. Containing a powerful ecological theme, this is a lovingly crafted work of depth, import and beauty.
“One of the most visually inventive films I have ever seen,” according to Roger Ebert, PRINCESS MONONOKE was (until TITANIC – now overtaken by SPIRITED AWAY) the highest-grossing film of all time in Japan.
Set in the Muromachi era (1338 – 1573), this magnificent epic traces Japan’s move from the Middle Ages to modernity with a breathtaking artistry that first brought Miyazaki to the attention of Disney, who distributed the film in the USA.
From the opening sequence onwards, it is packed with memorable images.
Out of the woods leaps an extraordinary beast, a gigantic Boar God writhing with snakes, causing death and mayhem on its rampaging way. Young Prince Ashitaka slays the beast, but receives a wound in his arm and becomes infected with the same sickness that had enraged the Boar, a sickness stemming from disharmony between humans and nature.
Ashitaka sets off to find a cure, travelling westward through the forest, where he encounters Mononoke, a human girl raised as a wolf who now leads the battle between forest gods and the encroaching settlement of iron miners – who themselves are under attack from a group of samurai.
The intricacies of this world make for a refreshingly complex moral order, and all choices are hard ones. It’s a story with depth and force, leavened with generous touches of the utterly unexpected – a convocation of head-wobbling forest sprites, for example.
In a reversal of the usual formula, this is an adult animation that children aged ten and over will also enjoy.
A fantasy adventure film unlike any other, SPIRITED AWAY tells the story of Chihiro, a capricious ten-year-old girl who believes the entire world should submit to her every whim.
While en route to a new home, Chihiro and her parents stumble upon a mysterious tunnel, which leads them to a ghostly town. There, the parents greedily devour the buffet in an abandoned restaurant, and unceremoniously turn into pigs as Chihiro looks on. They have unwittingly strayed into the Land of the Spirits, a world inhabited by ancient gods and magical beings who holiday at a giant bathhouse run by the demonic sorceress, Yubaba.
Chihiro finds an ally in the enigmatic Haku, who explains that in order to survive this strange and perilous world, she must make herself useful by working hard at the bathhouse. Chihiro renounces her laziness, her reason, her memories, even her name…
This visionary work from Miyazaki (PRINCESS MONONOKE) is a dreamlike fable and an enchanting fairy tale.
Not every action movie has as its heroine a 90-year-old woman, but the ordinary and extraordinary are always radically confused in Miyazaki's work and his freestyle adaptation of Diana Wynne Jones's novel is no exception.
At the start of the film his pensionable protagonist is a homely young hatter called Sophie, cursed by the Witch of the Waste to take on the form of an elderly lady but unable to explain her predicament.
Pragmatically undeterred, she finds herself a job as a magician's cleaning lady in Howl's Moving Castle – a clanking Hieronymus Bosch-esque mobile abode with huge chicken legs, cottages, smokestacks, and prehistoric wings, where the dandified wizard Howl resides with his assistant, Markl, and talking fire-sprite Calcifer.
They've got problems too: in a world where sorcery earns its keep as a military weapon, Howl fights both inner and outer demons to outwit rival warmongering factions, and the film stakes its claim as a powerful anti-war statement.
Visually, it is everything a Studio Ghibli movie should be: beautiful, intricate, subtle, enchanting, and full of imaginative treats, from the gooey minions of the opening sequence to the falling stars of the close.