Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki is not just one of the world's great fantasists; he's one of the most painterly filmmakers alive, and a vivid thinker who revels in taking chances with moods and spells and narrative experiments. Princess Mononoke was the first Miyazaki film to enjoy great acclaim in America, but Spirited Away (2002) was the one that intrigued the art-movie set. It was also the first animated film to win the top prize at the prestigious Berlin Film Festival. Combining dream and nightmare, enchantment and terror, it's a dazzling visual feast about a ten-year-old girl who wanders into a strange world inhabited by dark spirits, assorted creatures of the night and a grumpy sorceress. Miyazaki's powers of invention seem almost bottomless as he takes his young heroine on a voyage where she meets a walrus-like Radish Spirit and where boys turn into dragons, evil spirits keep their word and door knockers talk back. It comes to a sweet ending, but Miyazaki never hesitates to combine the grotesque and the beautiful in an unsettling pastiche of emotion. Here is an astonishing display of the animator's art, fully realized. Spirited Away screens this Saturday, September 11, in the Mayan Theater's Midnight Movies Series. Landmark's Mayan is at 110 Broadway. For more information, call 303-744-6799.
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