6:00 PM, 2nd June, 2012
In my youth I scorned realistic fiction and instead read all the fantastic fiction that I could get my hands on. One such source of enjoyment was the "Borrowers" series of books by Mary Norton. These featured tiny people who purloined - 'borrowed' - useful small items from us 'human beans'. Terry Pratchett (author of the "Discworld" series of novels) also enjoyably explored this idea of tiny people in a normal house with "The Carpet People", which one reviewer described as 'The Lord of the Rings on a rug'.
Now Studio Ghibli, winner of a Best Animated Feature Oscar for Spirited Away, has again created a charming animation with The Borrower Arrietty (Japanese title, shortened in Australia to simply Arrietty), named after an adventurous young Borrower who ignores cautions from her family to befriend a sickly human boy.
Naturally enough, just as Hollywood moved the English location of the memoir "We Bought a Zoo" to a California location in the movie We Bought a Zoo, so Studio Ghibli moved the English location of "The Borrowers" novel to a western Tokyo location in Arrietty. But in neither film does the parochialism detract from the enjoyment of the characters and the visuals.
Indeed, the critics have been universal in their praise of the traditional animation style featured in Arrietty, with the London Telegraph film critic David Gritten raving,
"Arrietty is simply gorgeous, embracing the ravishing colour of garden flowers, wildly sprouting vines, the perfection of a raindrop on a leaf."
8:00 PM, 2nd June, 2012
With its title and the casting of Ewan McGregor, with his recent forays into travelogues on a motorbike, you could be forgiven for thinking this might be a documentary. But this is a comedy, perhaps driven by the recent popularity of TV political satires, on the world of 'spin doctoring' or management in politics.
Fisheries expert Alfred Jones (McGregor) is a repressed, suburban sceptic with Scottish roots, a scientific background and a fixation with larvae. He becomes reluctantly involved in a project to bring salmon fly-fishing to the wadis - dry riverbed valleys in the desert highlands of Yemen. The project changes Jones's life - and British political history with it, thanks to a cast of characters reminiscent of "The Thick of It" and "Hollow Men".
Harriet Chetwode-Talbot (Blunt) is a management consultant representing the wishes of a wealthy sheikh with a passion for salmon fishing while Bridget Maxwell (Scott Thomas) is a Downing Street press secretary who orders the project to be pushed through as a 'good news story'. Suddenly this ludicrous project has a budget and press exposure to match.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was shot in locations across Scotland, Morocco and London. It received a standing ovation at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival and has been praised for its biting satire of the culture of spin. One not to miss!