Review of From Up on Poppy Hill (2011)
The Quartier Latin is an old building used to house numerous male student clubs at a high school in Yokohama, in 1963. Two students develop a romance over a campaign to prevent its demolition.
Historical drama, based on a 1980 manga written by Sayama Tetsurō. Directed by Miyazaki Gorō. The manga is apparently set just a few years before it was published. Transposing its plot to a point 48 years back, instead of preserving the setting of the manga, or updating it with a similar gap, shows Ghibli’s eagerness to cater to an audience with some interest in history. That’s nice, but by making the protagonists a pair of hard-working goody two-shoes, injecting far too many flashbacks, and generally tidying up the historical reality of student self-organization against authority in the 1960s—compare, for example, Ōshima’s Naked Youth (1960)—the film leaves me with the impression that nostalgia, didacticism and rubbing a conservative middle-class audience the right way were important goals in this production. The story of forbidden love is predictably defused along with possible political relevance. In effect, there is a strong element of fantasy, but it’s all very enjoyable. I wish the philosopher had not ultimately been reduced to a clown, and the final racing sequence is trite, but those are just details. The setting is wonderfully vivid, I love the singing scene, and the characterization of even minor figures is perfectly adept.