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Princess from the Moon

Posted by martinteller on September 24, 2014

The bamboo cutter Taketori (Toshiro Mifune) and his weaver wife Tayoshime (Ayako Wakao) have just lost their 5-year-old daughter Kaya (Miho Nakano).  But then a meteor shower in the nearby woods deposits a strange artifact.  Taketori finds a pod, from which emerges a baby girl.  The girl instantly grows into the spitting image of Kaya.  The couple adopt the girl as their own and name her Kaya, believing her to be a gift from the heavens.  Kaya rapidly grows into a stunning young woman (Yasuko Sawaguchi).  Taketori discovers the pod is made of gold, and the family escapes from poverty into high society.  Kaya’s beauty catches the attention of three prosperous suitors.  She sends them on impossible missions to win her love, hoping that the sincere one will prevail.  And then she learns more about her mysterious origin, and what plans are in store for her.

Never mind the presence of Mifune and Wakao, who by this time had each delivered stellar performances for over three decades.  They’re wasted here in flat roles that make little use of their talents (and Sawaguchi mostly just does a lot of wide-eyed gaping).  You can also ignore the fact that this is directed by Kon Ichikawa, who gave us greats like Revenge of a Kabuki Actor, Fires on the Plain, and The Burmese Harp.  This is a messy and weak disappointment of a film.  You would think the novelty of taking a 10th-century fantasy tale and injecting it with sci-fi elements would be exciting.  But no.  The film sports some gorgeous photography with eye-popping colors, but little else about it inspires.

There’s no humor in it, no pathos, no insight, no dramatic conflict worth speaking of.  There’s no passion.  It holds together enough to be watchable, but it’s a fairly empty experience.  It just… bops around from plot point to plot point.  Much of it is clearly inspired by E.T. and significant elements of the ending are downright stolen from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  I mean, some of the shots are exactly the same… there were even a couple that looked like they might have been lifted directly from Spielberg’s movie.

This all ought to at least be weird enough to be interesting, but Ichikawa fails to convey or elicit any sense of wonder.  Nor is there much thought or curiosity put into how the fantastic elements of the story work.  Why she does have just these two instant growth spurts?  Apparently it doesn’t matter, it just takes the plot where it needs to go.  Why does the color of her eyes change?  That one’s a real puzzler… they seem to make a big deal out of it for a second, but it doesn’t make a difference either way.  It’s another thing in the movie that in the end isn’t worth caring about.

As is often the case with Ichikawa’s later films, it’s hampered by a cheesy score.  Not only that, but Peter Cetera’s “Stay With Me” plays over the end credits.  It’s a cornball tune, but such a bizarre choice that it makes for one of the few intriguing aspects of the film.  Rating: Poor (50)


2 Responses to “Princess from the Moon”

  1. mountanto said

    Studio Ghibli has adapted this story for their latest film–and shock of shocks, it looks much better than this probably is.

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