Miyazaki's film debut comes to a good start
, 10 Jan 2011
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
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Lupin the Third:The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)
Lupin III (Yasuo Yamada) and his partner-in-crime Jigen Daisuke (Kiyoshi Kobayashi) have successfully robbed a Casino, after a quick escape Lupin comes to realise that all the money is counterfeit. They head to Cagliostro to find the source, there they discover the castle of the royal family, which holds many dark secrets...
I recommend this film to you if you enjoyed the original Lupin III TV series, Porco Rosso or Laputa:Castle in the Sky. Miyazaki delivers to fans of the original series, and newcomers, something exciting and different.
At the outset we see Lupin, an ambitious thief who steals simply for the adrenaline rush, he's let down as soon as he discovers the money he has stolen is fake and goes on an adventure with Jigen to the castle of Cagliostro to find the origins of the counterfeit money. On his journey there, he discovers a bride being chased by a group of men, and thus he risks his own life to save her.
Lupin and Jigen eventually learn, after she's been recaptured, that she's Princess Clarisse d'Cagliostro (Sumi Shimamoto) and she's to be married to Count Cagliostro (Taro Ishida). Count, however, wants to marry her to take possession of her families engagement ring so that he can take hold of the secret treasure. Upon discovering this, Lupin takes it in to his own hands to save the Princess and find out the truth behind the secret treasure.
The narrative structure to the film is different of what Miyazaki has done in future works, however, we can see from this the early signs of his director trademarks. The women being the sole influence in the main protagonists actions, for example, Lupin goes out of his way to save Princess Clarisse's life and even enter her prison, which is ironically, the highest room in the tallest tower protected by the 'evil magicians' henchmen. The sub-plot between Lupin and Clarisse is fanciful, even though it may seem outdated and melodramatic now, its still very alluring and shows a soft side to Lupin's boisterous character. Another common trademark of Miyazaki is flight, which is used naturally from Lupin to Clarisse 'I can fly through the air because you believe in me'.
The narrative structure of the film is brilliant, there's plenty of action along the way which really personifies the thief's character, Lupin is easily able to outwit the antagonist Count and his old enemy who joins the fray, Inspector Koichi Zenigata (Goro Naya). Despite the comedy value thrown in here and there, your always going to be on the edge of your seat as to how Lupin's going to succeed in getting the Count's treasure. Its very rare that we see this type of role reversal in films, the thief appears kind hearted while the Inspector and the Police from Interpol dislike his rebellious behaviour and look like they're trying to catch him for recognition.
Even though I would advise Miyazaki's films to you, I have to say this is nothing in comparison to his later works. Sadly, Joe Hisaishi does not take part as the music composer as this was prior to Studio Ghibli being formed. Instead we have Yuji Ohno who, in my opinion, didn't do a very good job in expressing how serious some scenes could be. For example, when Lupin first saves Clarisse in the car chase, they end up falling off a cliff, he manages to use his grappling hook to save them but on the way down a tree branch snaps and knocks Lupin unconscious. She is then left on her own to fend for herself when reinforcements arrive to kidnap her, the music was very cheesy and just didn't match the emotion coming from the protagonists themselves.
The animation wasn't exactly at its best either, some scenes you could tell a lot of detail was placed, for example the ruins of the Archdukes castle was beautifully illustrated. But when it rained, only the background was effected, the characters clothes wasn't wet, in fact anything other than the background animation cells looked dry and unaffected by the environmental change. This surprised me, as Miyazaki normally puts a lot of detail into anything that's effected by nature.
Some Character's will arrive on scene that newcomers will fail to recognise, we have Fujiko Mine (Eiko Masuyama), a spy who apparently worked with Lupin in the past, we also have Goemon Ishikawa XIII (Makio Inoue), a samurai who comes to assist Lupin, but has very little screen time, we hardly learn anything about his character or his role. At this point, I advise that you watch the film subbed, the Japanese dialogue is more fitting to the Character's than the dub.
In conclusion, I'd say this film is average. It's good, but could've been a lot better, I feel this may disappoint seem Lupin III fans as there's not much emphasis on the original character's, but despite this I wouldn't avoid the film altogether. It's charming to watch, very enjoyable, some scenes are gruesome, others are comical and so its definitely worth a rent.
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