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The Film


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Last Viewed:2006.05.07
First/Last Reviewed:2006.05.07/2006.05.28

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In recent years, films from Asia have attempted to attract western audiences by being less obscure and more accessible from a cultural point of view. Japanese films have focused on tried and true genres such as Animes, Samurai, Ninja, and Yakuza films and most deeply Japanese fares have not made it out of the country, being an acquired taste only for some Westerners. And then there are a few films such as Princess Racoon (2005) that simply defy everything. It is bewildering and has so many strange twists of logic that you are left scratching your head more often than not.

From renowned director Seijun Suzuki (Branded To Kill (1967), Pistol Opera (2001)), this film is best described as a rock opera with Kabuki-style sets, costumes and roles, about a traditional folk's tale. The film is a beautiful and intriguing black hole of cultural references that no Western audience not schooled in the Japanese tradition will get. But if you have a sense of adventure and are open to seeing something completely alien to you, then this film is a beautiful glimpse into a rich tradition of story-telling.

Racoons and humans are simply not meant to fall in love with one another. Or are they? In this magic tale from Japan, a Racoon princess and a human prince fall in love and conquer all the prejudices and the difficulties that their union will generate. It's a traditional love story, with fairies, evil kings, witches and sorcerers, and magical frogs.

The film is mostly done with theatrical sets that are gorgeously painted, lit and arranged, and features costumes that are a joy to the eye. Visually, the film is flawless. Being a "musical", the film has many musical moments and many songs. Many of them feel strange to the Western ear of course, but that doesn't prevent most numbers from being thoroughly enjoyable and engaging. Watching this with my kids (6 and 3), it's been interesting to see how they enjoyed this story that was primarily visual and musical to them (they don't read subtitles). Unless you are Japanese, or knowledgeable about Japanese culture, this is a wondrous and perplexing film that you can still enjoy at the condition that you watch it with the eyes and ears of a child.

- Laurent Hasson