As you may or may not be aware, Makoto Shinkai has a new film, The Garden of Words, coming out in Japan shortly. For some bizarre reason people thought it would be a good idea to premiere it in Australia, on the Gold Coast, a full month before it hit Japanese theatres. It was shown as part of the Gold Coast Film Festival, which to my knowledge is a pretty small affair, so I really can't fathom why they decided to do this, let alone fly Shinkai out to Australia for it. But they did, so I decided to go.
The turnout was far greater than I'd thought it would be, I think they must have almost sold out the tickets. There was a signing session beforehand where people could queue to meet Shinkai and get him to sign these free posters that they were giving away. He speaks surprisingly good English so the translator just sat there quietly for most of the time while he talked to each person that came up. When it was my turn he shook my hand, asked me how far I'd come and if I'd seen any of his other films, and then said that he hoped I'd enjoy this one. It was all quite convenient because I had no idea what I was going to ask or say otherwise.
The movie itself was good. It certainly wasn't a big departure from his previous work in terms of themes and content, which isn't really a bad thing in my view. As expected, the backgrounds and scenery were beautiful, and the characters were compelling. The story itself could perhaps be summarised as "delinquent schoolboy skips school, meets a Christmas cake drinking beer in a park, and develops a fascination with her and her feet". Hmm, maybe She and Her Feet would have been an appropriate alternative title.
It was a short film, only 46 minutes long, and Shinkai had said the intent there was to strip away anything unnecessary. This did come through in the movie, every scene definitely had a purpose and I didn't feel that it was rushed at all and it still felt like a feature film. The ending didn't quite go how I'd expected it to go based on his other works, but I'm not going to give anything away there.
|The poster's pretty ugly really. A shame.|
Afterwards there was a Q&A session about the film. Shinkai said that he was worried that non-Japanese speakers wouldn't appreciate it in its entirety as one of the recurring themes were these short poems from Japanese literature, with some of the words in them expressing more than their literal meaning due to the kanji chosen and their individual meanings. Or something like that. He was right, that particular part was lost. But he hoped that we'd enjoy the rest of it anyway and I'm pretty sure the audience did going by their reaction.
It comes out in Japan at the end of May and a small number of Blurays/DVDs are going to be released at the same time so you'll probably be able to find a copy then if you're interested.