From Up On Poppy Hill

I was lucky enough to go see Studio Ghibli’s latest, From Up On Poppy Hill, last week. It’s been released to a limited amount of theaters, which generally means the closest city would be Boston or New York, but for some odd reason it showed up on the list as playing at The Moviehouse in Millerton, NY.

I had checked the theater list about a month prior, and Millerton wasn’t listed. Then I saw a post on Facebook saying they had added cities, so I checked, thinking maybe Hartford would be there. Instead I saw Millerton, which is not only near, (about 40 minutes) but a much nicer drive than into Hartford. The catch? It was only playing there for two more days. I happened to be off from my paying job that day, but had to work the next day. So it was then, or never.

I texted my daughter to see if she wanted to go. If not, I would go to an earlier show, but she did, and her best friend was able to come as well. Her best friend is a HUGE Hayao Miyazaki fan, just like me. So that afternoon, we headed out.

As I said, it’s a gorgeous drive, and it was one of the first really nice days we’ve had. The girls had been separated for a couple of weeks due to an out-of-state vacation, so they jabbered and talked non-stop the whole way while I enjoyed the scenery and kept the car window down.

I think I’ve only been to Millerton once before, a long time ago, so I had to drive up and down Main Street twice before I saw the theater. The picture on their website didn’t prepare me for how tiny the entrance once. Then I had to turn around and come back to find a parking space.

They had four movies playing, so they must have four theaters. Poppy Hill was playing in what was called The Screening Room, up this steep, wide staircase to the second floor. Outside in the hallway was a coffee bar, so the girls bought a coffee something-or-other. I sent them downstairs for popcorn, but felt guilty once we got in the theater. It’s for artsy-fartsy films, I’m guessing. It’s a small, living room-sized room with couches and chairs. Big windows, and one nice wall with speakers along the bottom. Not made for popcorn eaters.

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At first it was just the three of us, and we naturally sat on the couches. A bad choice, it turned out later, because the backs were far too low for comfort when you’re tilting your head to watch the screen. They were wide enough to slide down and get comfy, but I don’t slide well. Then we were joined by two elderly women, and I think two men came in just before it began. The manager (?) came in before the movie started and told us what would be playing next week and so on, and we felt even more out of place with our tub of popcorn.

This was not a theater made with anime fans in mind, and they might have been slightly horrified at Rachel’s pink hair and Kethry’s trans style, accompanied by my white hair, Black Butler t-shirt, and our back packs. But this was Miyazaki, and this was Studio Ghibli, and no way were we going to miss it.

If they issue it in a wider release take yourself to see it. It was just what you’d want from both Miyazaki’s and Ghibli. Not as childlike as Ponyo or Kiki, no fantasy elements like in Princess Mononoke or Spiritied Away, or my two absolute favorites, My Neighbor Totoro and Howl’s Moving Castle.

It’s described as a ‘coming of age’ story, and it is, but it is also a nice, gentle love story. It had that slice-of-life feel that so many Japanese films have, where not much really happens, but what does happen fills you up. And in Umi and Shun’s lives, the little that happened meant everything to them.

Rachel pointed something out that I hadn’t realized before. In nearly every movie from Miyazaki or Ghibli, there is always a major house cleaning scene. I have no idea what the significance of that is, but thinking back, she’s right. I wonder what it means. (I did search for that one damned piece of popcorn I know I spilled, but I couldn’t find it, I swear.)

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