Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Still Reeling

It's been about twenty-four hours since I saw a perfect film, and I'm still trying to wrap my brain around it.

It's not so much that it was the most mind-boggling film I've seen recently. Because it wasn't. It wasn't like Synechdoche, New York or The Fountain, the latter of which is my favorite film and, in my personal opinion, also a perfect film. I haven't come across a film I feel similarly about since I saw The Fountain for the second time two years ago.

To begin with: this is a 2007 anime film. Specifically, it's an OVA (original video animation, which I guess is some kind of technical name for an anime feature film).

Title: 秒速5センチメートル.

Which means: 5 Centimeters Per Second.

The title, as indicated in the trailer, refers to the rate at which an average cherry blossom petal falls to the ground, which is roughly five centimeters a second.

My personal misgivings about the film were set aside at Sylvia's insistence - a pestering she's managed to keep up for more than six months. We finally sat down and watched it last night. At some point, I stopped paying attention to what was happening and just let the film "happen" to me.

5 Centimeters Per Second isn't a completely linear film; it's a story that's divided into three twenty minute parts, all of which center around a boy named Takaki Tono and the distance in both space and time between him and a girl from his childhood.

The film is not a science fiction film or a fantasy. It's not told with gigantic robots or demonic aliens or cowboys or big-breasted femme fatales or melodramatic teenage boys. It's most likely part of an emerging genre some (heaven knows who) call "slice of life" (a stupid name for a genre). Put crudely, this category consists of films that have no involving plot and are driven from fade in to credits almost solely by character development. One of the most popular films of this sort is the Academy Award-winning Lost In Translation, and some of my favorite films can also be considered part of this genre, like The Squid and The Whale, The Savages, You Can Count On Me, and most recently Rachel At The Wedding.

That said: I can't really talk much about the plot or what happens. I can't quite talk about how I was affected by it either, except that A: I'd bet you some of my comics you've never see a more beautiful anime and B: I had a hard time finding anything fallible about this film.

I personally believe that perfect films exist, and that they can be made. I also hastily point out that "perfect" is merely a matter of perspective, and that perfect films are not always necessarily good, great or amazing films. So when I say, "5 Centimeters Per Second is a perfect film," one must keep in mind that my category of "perfect" currently neighbors 5 Centimeters with The Fountain. So depending on how you personally gauge the latter will give you an idea of what makes 5 Centimeters amazing to me.

It's not an easy film to find; if you've got the patience, I know it's separated into parts on YouTube. It's only an hour long. I plan on owning it very soon, and if you're interested I'd be happy to lend it out. But I know I can't watch it for a long time. I'm writing this to document my initial thoughts, which are brief and thus: this film had so many beautiful moments that I could hardly stand it, and I can only hope I care about my characters as gently as director Makoto Shinkai cares about Takaki and Akari.

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