By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Screening at Spark Film Festival 2022
The cinematic adaptation of Akihiro Nishino’s picture book, Poupelle of Chimney Town (映画 えんとつ町のプペル), is a wonder to behold. Its vibrant and highly detailed backgrounds spotlight a world not too different from Victorian Age Paris, and here, the skies are forever clouded by industry. Instead of a city covered in soot, the life we find on the streets is brought alive with autumn colours.
Who we are following in this film is Lubicchi (Mana Ashida). This boy lost his father some years ago, and on Halloween, a mysterious golem made of garbage emerges from the sewers and finds the boy by a quirk of fate. Its design is amazing, and some may think it’s a robot. Plus, this animated work is only scratching the surface of how this story can be retold as a Broadway play, perhaps in the style of Les Miserables. The fact that’s in the works (teasers can be found on YouTube) has me excited to see how many more songs are going to be offered.
In Celtic lore, it’s widely believed that the veil between the living and dead world is thin, and spirits can visit the physical realm. The emphasis on that ‘musical’ number about Samhain must mean something. Ghosts have unfinished business to take care of, and in this film’s case, I was left wondering. Could there be some kind of connection? After many flashbacks, the hints lead to a very predictable realization. It won’t stop the waterworks from coming because everyone just wants Lubicchi to be happy. He’s been taught to dream by his father. That is, he has to believe starlight exists over the continuous cloud cover. This lad never lost that zeist despite everyone thinking the opposite exists. Thankfully mom is there to help.
I couldn’t help but think of Urinetown while watching this film. The exposé concerning corporate mismanagement was light, though I wondered if I was watching an adaptation of some Charles Dickens novel. There are no direct references, and the closest analogy I can make is Hard Times. Between the politics and a story of a boy bonding with a robot, I did wonder how that hodge podge of garbage parts came to be. Because of how this story is structured, I couldn’t help but wonder if the Halloween introduction is meant to tell us that we’re going to watch a ghost story?
Suffice to say, after all that’s been revealed, this work is a definitive tale very suitable to reflect what All Hallows’ Eve is about, including a cast representing all the various costumed tropes for the season. This tale operates in the same level as Dickens’ A Christmas Carol for the winter holiday. It’s a wonderful tale of a child wanting to do what’s right for the city he lives in. It’s turned corrupt, and it’s only by mutual cooperation between individuals that they can realize. There’s a sun hidden by the dense clouds, and to expose it to the world will be tough.
4 Stars out of 5