Spirited Away


RELEASED OUT NOW! 1981-1986 | 15 | Blu-ray

Director Nobuhiko Obayashi

Cast Hiroko Yakushimar­u,

Tomoyo Harada, Ryôichi Takayanagi, Riki Takeuchi

Early in his career, arthouse director Nobuhiko Obayashi (best known for cult ’70s horror House) was out of time and out of fashion: too strange for mainstream audiences; too tender for a more radical one. This box set brings together four of his smaller films from the ’80s.

The stand-out is The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, a beautifull­y dreamy version of the novel later adapted as an anime film. It’s joined by School In The Crosshairs (about a shy high-school student discoverin­g telekineti­c powers) and two less fantastica­l entries: coming-of-age movie The Island Closest To Heaven and black and white love story His Motorbike, Her Island.

Each feels like walking through a dream, with sepia-tinted footage that slowly blots into colour and strangely coordinate­d dance sequences. Even the most mundane images are imbued with poetry, like the curl of steam from a cup of hot tea. What really shines, though, is Obayashi’s respect for the inner lives of young women. His heroines are shy but steely, perpetuall­y curious, fanciful and romantic, but never stupid.

This elevates the collection beyond being a curio, revealing a quiet intelligen­ce and wistful dispositio­n that brings pathos to Obayashi’s eventual legacy as a surrealist filmmaker.

Extras One highlight is an interview between a historian and Obayashi’s daughter, where she shares anecdotes about working on her father’s film sets (27 minutes). Another is video essay “Obayashi:

Femininity In Transition” (15 minutes). There are two archival interviews with the director (39 minutes). Three of the films come with new commentari­es. Plus: audition footage of Girl Who Leapt actress Tomoyo Harada (seven minutes); music video; trailers; booklet. Kimberley Ballard

In the late ’70s, Obayashi was attached to a space-based Godzilla pitch. The story for it was published in Starlog in 1979.

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