seaslug

Shopping malls and Howl's Moving Castle

I wanted to see Howl's Moving Castle last night. I had to drive down to King of Prussia, that being the nearest theater playing it.

Whenever I go to see a film in King of Prussia I always drop by the mall. People watching in a mall is always interesting to me and, this mall supposedly being the third largest in the country, that makes people watching here the third most interesting. Or something.

I noticed at least two people who had tattooed the names of presumably significant others on visible parts of their bodies. The names Kevin and Keesha remain in my mind. I suppose this shows a significant commitment regardless of the sensibility. Perhaps if I tattooed the names of lovers on my body parts I would have more lasting relationships. A sort of mojo. A hex. A spell. "He's so self-centered, misanthropic, and desirous of attention but look, he tattooed my name on his forehead!"

In the summertime the clientele at the King of Prussia mall are a bit more diverse. In the winter one only has the locals - the suburbanites and the conspicuously wealthy. In the summer people from nearby Philadelphia, as well as tourists carrying maps of the mall floor-plan, arrive. A much more interesting mix.

Watching people in a mall is all the proof you need that humans are a herd species, conforming in mass quantities. The Philadelphia set wandered in large groups, all wearing oversize white t-shirts and the latest version of short pants that are almost, but not quite long pants. The suburbanites and yuppies tended to travel in groups of two or three but I saw one large gathering of young men, all wearing variously colored polo shirts, khaki shorts, and boat shoes. Pink has come back in style for the young prepster in case any of you were interested.

Of course, I dropped by the Apple Store. As always, it was crowded. I saw one family with two college age kids. They had a new iMac, an iPod, and a printer sitting at their feet and they were all consulting a list. The son looked a little annoyed and spoiled.

I always look at the iPods when I'm at the Apple Store and have disposable income. I never get around to buying one because I just don't listen to music that much. I would probably never use it. But then, I never thought I would keep a journal for any length of time, either.

I usually have to leave the mall after a short while because malls in general, and this mall in particular, seem to me the worst examples of our consumer culture. I can only take it in small doses. I sort of contribute by getting a Starbucks but then I spend the majority of my time there just sitting on a chair or bench, watching.

I have to say that Howl's Moving Castle is Miyazaki's most derivative work, containing elements of Beauty and the Beast, Cinderellla, and The Wizard of Oz. There's a lot of Hans Christian Andersen and The Brothers Grimm. I felt it also contained the fewest Japanese influences of any of his work that I've seen. There's a hardworking young girl, with a flighty, socialite mother, who falls in love with an apparently heartless man who often turns into a monster. There's an enchanted scarecrow. Instead of a Wicked Witch of the West there's a Witch of the Waste. There's a sort of Wizard of Oz except that, in this film, the wizard is an extremely powerful woman named Suliman who rules from the capital city with an iron hand. The story itself seems a bit of a mish-mash. The world of Howl and the heroine, Sofi, is at war and one never really finds out why other than that Suliman might have started it. One also never finds out why Sofi and her mother are not close or why Sofi's mother betrays her, apparently for the price of a rich husband. Where did Howl get his apprentice? Why did Howl make a deal with Calcifer? Is there more to the relationship between Howl and the Witch of the Waste? One aches to know, and not in a good way. The ending seems forced. The enchanted scarecrow, transformed by a kiss from Sofi, who is his true love, but who, herself, loves Howl??? literally says that he is the prince from the neighboring kingdom (never identified) who has been missing for awhile. What? Perhaps, when I see it in the original language there will be a subtitled translation that makes more sense. Nevertheless, the english dub voice work was all star and pretty good.

Miyazaki seems to have taken quite a liking to Bavarian architecture and clothing styles. One sees it in several of his films, notably in Kiki's Delivery Service. Also seen frequently in Miyazaki films is his love for fanciful flying machines, present since his first feature length film, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Winds. In Japan the phrase "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" is taken quite seriously and literally. What would get one sued in this country is taken as a matter of course over there. One can see the Miyazaki influenced combination of 19th century Bavaria and fanciful, often steam powered machinery in Koichi Chigira's Last Exile and Taro Rin's Metropolis.

I've been critical of this film but I cannot ever fault Miyazaki's illustration ability. He paints the most beautiful landscapes ever seen in an animated film. His ability to express subtle and nuanced emotion in his characters' faces is unparalleled. His work is better than anything Disney or anyone else has done in 60 years. Miyazaki is probably one of the best choices for anyone wanting to introduce the average American to Japanese anime. As such, the choice of Disney and its distribution arm might not be a bad one.

It was 9 pm by the time I started back. The last of the daylight was fading from the sky and there were pyrotechnics all around. In fact, I think I took hostile fire from an overpass on the Northeast Extension. A couple of towns, like Bethlehem, had decided to have their fireworks displays on the night before the holiday. I almost decided to pull over and watch from a rest area but my one summer spent working at Disney World was filled with fireworks every single night so, not having my camera, I gave it a pass.

I stopped for supper at Two Guys and had a horrible antipasto. Some kids were trying to light something on the sidewalk across the street without much success. There was some noise of firecrackers here and there but the noise was nothing like I would have heard on a typical July 4th in New Orleans. There, the gunfire would have been continuous and, in some neighborhoods, deafening. I remember one coworker, down there, showing us a bullet hole in the hood of his car. I don't know why more people weren't killed by falling bullets. I would have liked to have wandered the streets a bit last night but I'm not really part of the herd. Does that sound pompous? Oh well.
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Perhaps if I tattooed the names of lovers on my body parts I would have more lasting relationships. A sort of mojo. A hex. A spell.

A friend of mine is a tattoo artist who says that tattooing a lover's name is basically the last stop before a permanent split. I believe he refuses to do them.
Not having yet had the chance to ever speak with a tattoo artist, despite having been a sailor, I appreciate this insight.
The book the movie is based on answers all of your burning questions. I'm glad I read the book first. First I should say that I am a Miyazaki fan and have loved his work for years now. But his version of the story has very little relation to the book. Many characters are missing and some are even converted from good to evil and vise versa. He really messed with the story so much that it isn't even the same story now. Go read the book, you will enjoy it too!

According to the Rules of the Universe (as I understand them), having someone's name tattooed on your body is the kiss of death. At the moment the needle makes its last puncture, the Relationship Clock is ticking&$151;it's only a matter of time before the Grim Reaper of Romance scythes that lovin' feeling right out from under you.
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