Sunday, June 26, 2005

I Want My 111 Minutes Back: A Review of Princess Raccoon

I just saw Princess Raccoon at the Asian Film Festival in New York. The gentleman who introduced the film congratulated the audience on their fine taste. “You could be at Herbie: Fully Loaded,” he said with a smug smile, “but instead you’re here to watch Seijun Suzuki’s Princess Raccoon.” The audience applauded and cheered. Well let me tell you, I would have rather watched Herbie: Fully Loaded twice in a row. Princess Raccoon, an allegedly whimsical musical based on Japanese folklore, easily qualifies for one of the ten worst films that I have ever seen. It is so wretched that its wretchedness actually makes me dislike other Seijun Suzuki films, which is quite a feat.

There is such a vast expanse of things wrong with Princess Raccoon that I hardly know where to start. Perhaps its worst faults are being both aggressively unintelligible and mind bogglingly monotonous. If the reels got mixed up or if half of them got lost in shipping the audience would not know the difference. If you don’t believe me I dare you to steal a print and have someone run the reels in random order. If you can tell me which one goes where I will give you every penny I have.

The first third of the film features a mishmash of scenes, songs (including a cringe inducing rap number), and images that don’t seem to be related in any way at all. Horribly integrated computer animation is thrown into the bargain, adding yet another brick to the immense, and rapidly growing, wall of incomprehensibility. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the writer wrote down any Japanese folklore that came to mind of on a bunch of note cards, stacked them up, shuffled them, dealt the cards out on a table, and then wrote the script according to their order.

About thirty-five minutes into the film some semblance of a plot arrives. Something about a shape-shifting raccoon princess (in human form) and a regular human falling in love. I hoped that this was a portent of the film being something other than a series of perplexing scenes, but no such luck. The film continues in the same absolutely baffling manner. I wish I had gotten out then, but I was trapped in the middle of a narrow row. In retrospect it would have been worth it.

I’m exhausted just thinking about the last couple of reels. I spent every moment hoping and praying that it would be over. Every big dolly move, swell in music, or scene that looked remotely like it was wrapping things up renewed my hopes that the credits were about to roll. For agonizing minute after agonizing minute it went on. And on and on and on. Finally, after dozens of false alarms, it cut to what I was sure must be an abstract pattern over which credits were about to appear. Then, in defiance of all reason, it cut to another scene. How could I forget? The completely unrelated subplot concerning a ninja being captured, urinated on, and boiled in a soup hadn’t been resolved.

I’m never going to get those 111 minutes back, but you can spare yourself the pain. Unless you want to taint your memory or future enjoyment of great Seijun Suzuki films like Youth of the Beast and Tokyo Drifter do not see Princess Raccoon. I would have rather spent my time vomiting.

Grade: Does not meet the criteria to receive a grade.



Blogger Keegan DeWitt said...

"I would have rather spent my time vomiting".... priceless. I give that review 4 stars.

10:06 AM  

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