No cheese

So, I really did mean to review Grand Pont L’Eveque, really, but…it just didn’t happen.  And now, I’ve forgotten what the darned cheese tastes like, although I did almost buy it by accident at the store yesterday, thinking it was a new cheese for me.  Luckily, I remembered and grabbed a very interesting-looking Chimay-washed cheese (from Belgium, naturally) instead.  But I haven’t tasted it yet. 

However, yesterday, I watched Howl’s Moving Castle at last, the way I’ve always best enjoyed anime, which is dubbed in Cantonese.  I know, I know, this seems perverse and shameful.  But it’s the way I was brought up, and it’s still the way that works best for me.  I’m no purist with this, wanting to watch it in Japanese (which would be nothing more to me than a creepy reminder of the year I spent there when I was seven, complete with mysterious customs and shadowy memories), but neither do I want to watch it dubbed in English.  Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to get anime dubbed in Cantonese around here, so I had to wait for someone to go to Hong Kong and get it for me.  That done, I eventually found a good evening to sit down and watch it (after all six discs of Desperate Housewives S. 1 from the library).  I have to say I didn’t like it as much as I liked Spirited Away, and of course it can’t compare to Totoro, since that was practically one of the first movies I ever saw in a movie theater.  It’s also very difficult for me to evaluate the movie because I read the novel first.  At the time, I didn’t know there was going to be a movie, though I figure it must have been pretty close to ready by then.  I had been looking for a new light fantasy author to read, and Diana Wynne Jones was suggested to me, Howl’s Moving Castle specifically because it was one of her more comedy-focused books.  And I remember enjoying it and reading the sequel (which I enjoyed less, except for the cat thing), and a few others as well (Dogsbody is my favorite so far, naturally).  The thing with having read it before seeing this movie is that 1) the plot was not at all confusing to me, as it tends to be in a lot of these movies, especially the ones based on Japanese mythology and 2) I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what was different about the movie.  That is, I wanted to know in what ways it was unfaithful to the novel.  Because movies are almost always unfaithful to the novels, plays, whatever they are based on.  To a degree, I understand the need for this, but mostly, I sigh.  It didn’t help that it’s been a while, so I didn’t really remember all the details of the novel all that well.  But here are things I do remember (extreme spoilers ahead):

  • they left out all the cool stuff with Howl’s origin in what to all appearances is our real world, to his life as just plain Howell–when Sophie went through the door on the black setting, she didn’t end up in…Britain
  • they left out the craziness with Sophie’s sisters and the scarecrow.  In fact, she wasn’t freaked out by the scarecrow at all
  • they left out that Sophie was a pretty magical person in her own right, talking to her hats and other things and remaking them the way she liked them
  • wasn’t the mother figure her stepmother?
  • the whole meta awareness of fairytale convention that was so much fun in DWJ is missing in the movie, replaced by these very Japanese characters despite the setting

I loved the hair dye scene, though.  It was hilarious both times around.  I’m worried that the plot isn’t any more clear in this latest movie than in any of the previous ones, which might be a fallout of this deliberate sense of the mysterious.  It was pretty clear by the end in the novel, though, and I think that that’s better.  Because part of the fun of a mystery (whether in the mystery genre or not) is having it all revealed in the end, and maybe figuring out some of it before the reveal.

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