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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Operetta Tanuki Goten (aka Princess Raccoon) (2005)

A young Prince (Joe Odagiri) is banished from his kingdom by his jealous father (Mikijiro Hira) after a sorceress (Hiroko Yakushimaru) declares that the son's beauty will eclipse that of his father. It is in a mysterious forest that he meets a Princess (Ziyi Zhang, MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA) who is a raccoon spirit and a forbidden romance occurs. When one thinks of the director Seijun Suzuki, one thinks of his stylized Yakuza thrillers like YOUTH OF THE BEAST or BRANDED TO KILL or perhaps his dark dramas like GATE OF FLESH or STORY OF A PROSTITUTE. But you wouldn't connect him to a brightly colored fairy tale musical which is exactly what this is. Musically, it's all over the place: operetta, Broadway ballads, hip-hop, reggae, pop songs with stylized choreography by Mitsuko Tanizawa. The staging is intentionally theatrical combining animation and live action with artificial sound stage sets as well as real locations. The narrative is hard to follow at times with Japanese cultural references going right over Western heads but it's a dazzling display of cinematic magic. Well worth seeking out if you haven't seen it.

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