Saturday, March 15, 2008

Revolutionary Girl Utena - The Movie

Shôjo kakumei Utena: Adolescence mokushiroku; Animated fantasy drama, Japan, 1999; D: Kunihiko Ikuhara, S: Tomoko Kawakami, Yuriko Fuchizaki, Yuka Imai, Takehito Koyasu, Takeshi Kusao, Chieko Honda, Aya Hisakawa, Kotono Mitsuishi

The futuristic school Ohtori gets a new student, Utena, a tomboy girl with short pink hair who wants to become like a prince who once comforted her while she was a little child. Arrogant Saionji, the "owner" of the girl Anthy, challenges her to a sword fencing duel. Utena wins and "gains" Anthy in whom she falls in love. She soon discovers that her prince is Touge and that Anthy wants to run away from her brother Akio. Utena transforms into a car that is driven by Anthy, and thus they escape to a different world together.

Unusual director Kunihiko Ikuhara ("Sailor Moon") enjoys a high reputation, but his famous anime series "Utena" is rather overrated: the surreal "story" was overstretched beyond any measure while the metaphors were irritating. "Utena - the Movie" is an even weaker achievement, closer to Fellini's "Eight and a Half" and Godard's numerous abstract films without a story, but it's still a good film. Ikuhara crams everything with the craziest symbols (when a grown man rapes the boy Touga in the garden suddenly little fairies in the form of girl Shiori are "born" from cabbages) and references to the manga and series (a cameo appearance by Nanami as a cow who fights with the mouse Chu-Chu) therefore leaving all interpretations to the viewers, especially the ones if Utena and Anthy are having a lesbian relationship or are maybe just one and the same person or if are they going through the illogical world of adolescence, but to many that will be all the same. In his audio commentary on the DVD Ikuhara even himself admitted he doesn't know anymore what all the symbols meant, and stated how many didn't want to make the mad ending.


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