SIFF 2012: Only Yesterday ****

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on May 19, 2012)

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Although I have already seen the Studio Ghibli masterpiece, Only Yesterday several times (I own a PAL DVD copy) I am looking forward to seeing it on the big screen. Originally released in Japan back in 1991, it is finally in U.S. theaters (well, at least on the festival circuit). Written and directed by Isao Takahata (Grave of the Fireflies), this is one of the celebrated Japanese anime studio’s most subtle narratives (as well as one of its most visually breathtaking).

A woman in her late 20s takes a train ride through the countryside and reflects on the choices she has made throughout her life, from childhood onward. It is a poetic and moving humanist study that I would hold up alongside the best work of Ozu. According to the Internet Movie Data Base, although the Walt Disney Company has held domestic distribution rights for some time, they apparently objected to references about menstruation. I envy SIFF attendees discovering this gem for the first time, in its intended presentation.

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