Tuesday, 19 April 2011

バラード時間 / Ibaraado Jikan / Iblard Time

When Studio Ghibli needed inspiration for a fantastical dreamscape in the most expressive sequence of Mimi-o Sumaseba, probably my favourite overall Ghibli film, they turned to the work of Inoue Naohisa. The sequence was remarkable in a film very different in tone, but in many ways its heart: Miyazaki himself took it upon himself to direct it – the remainder being helmed by the late Kondou Yoshifumi – and it was the basis for the film’s theatrical poster. The short dream segment was so popular that it was the basis for the entire The Cat Returns project, though there is little resembling Inoue’s work there.

So then, twelve years later, comes the direct-to-DVD short animation Iblard Jikan. And it is not only very unlike any other Ghibli work, it is generally a very strange piece of animation. Essentially it is 25 minutes of little scenes from the world of Iblard, created by Inoue as paintings and then animated (plus credits). He himself is credited as director, but there is no story here, no dialogue or established characters. Accompanied by occasionally beautifully delicate but often rather jarring music, we have long shots of Inoue’s paintings, subtly moving: trees might move in the wind or water might ripple. In more exciting shots, fantastical trams move along their tracks, or a person might even come into shot, possibly in flight.

Iblard Jikan resembles nothing so much as a screen saver. Pretty, almost static images that occasionally fade out and are replaced by another. While its painterly stylings are pleasant to look at, the likes of The Old Man and the Sea manage to have similar aesthetic qualities but also tell an interesting, compelling story. Taken all at once, Iblard Jikan is frankly rather dull and best suits someone with something else to do while they can give the majority of attention to the pleasant images.

But the question is then raised: is a plotless and slow-moving series of images worth thirty minutes of your day at all?

A tribute to a favourite artist who has a place in Ghibli history – but not recommended for any indifferent to that link.

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