Ponyo and Kiki’s Delivery Service at the Kiln

We’re really lucky to have a lot of great cinemas within walking distance of where we live.

There’s the Vue, which is a standard multiplex in a shopping centre, for which it’s easy to get decent-priced discount tickets. It also has a not-IMAX-but-huge screen.

Then there’s the Odeon, which houses not only a generously-sized actually-IMAX IMAX screen, but the smaller screens are ‘Luxe’ which means comfy reclining seats and appropriate seats-to-screen-size ratio.

And then there’s the Kiln, which used to be the Tricycle. It’s (mainly?) a theatre, but also has a very reasonably sized screen with a decent number of seats. It’s a lovely cinema, and reminds me of the excellent Cornerhouse in Manchester (RIP) in some ways. Tickets at the Kiln are very reasonable, and local residents even get a discount on top of that.

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The Kiln Cinema, complete with tricycle carpet

They frequently show the latest films, as well as National Theatre Live broadcasts, and they also show older films from time to time. I get the impression the programming team get to have a bit of fun with these selections. Over the past few weekends, they’ve shown a couple of Studio Ghibli films. First Ponyo, then Kiki’s Delivery Service. We jumped at the chance to see some Ghibli films on the big screen.

I own a handful of Studio Ghibli films on blu-ray and they look fantastic. But apart from The Secret World of Arrietty which I was able to see when it came out, I haven’t seen any others in cinemas.

71AIQ15DemL._SL1500_Ponyo was a treat as, although I’d seen it before years ago, it had faded from my memory. It looked superb on the big screen – colours popping all over the place, and the weather and storm effects felt very atmospheric.

Oddly enough, it was shown on the weekend that a devastating typhoon hit Japan, and it was a little eerie to see the more ‘realistic’ elements of the film’s response to storms and typhoons – panicked drives along dark roads to check on a remote community, the power going out, and having to prepare meals on gas stoves and using backup generators and plug-in lights.

One unexpected highlight was the cinema’s audience. When I saw that these films were being shown, I had to check they weren’t as part of the regular parent and child screenings they often put on.  Fortunately they were just normal screenings, so unaccompanied adults were welcome. It turned out that we were one of two or three other couples in their 20s and 30s, along with a six-year-old’s birthday party of about ten kids and various adults, and a small group of adults with special needs.

As a beard-scratching nerd, most of my experiences of watching Studio Ghibli films are alone, studious, with Japanese dubbing and English subtitles. These screenings were with the American English dubbing, and an audience of adults and children. And let me tell you – the reactions of the kids to some of the dramatic and beautiful scenery of Ponyo was so exciting! Gasps and cheers and chuckles and a general sense of awe, the like of which I had certainly internalised when watching these films before, but to hear it expressed out loud in such a natural way was a wonderful new experience.

kikis-delivery-service-poster-web-2Kiki’s Delivery Service was similar, although no birthday party this time – just the mix of grown-ups and a few kids-and-parents. But still a nice amount of gasps as Kiki took flight, or not-so-quiet enquiries of “but why…?” to various plot devices – and a chuckle or two at the odd line that seemed a touch out of place when translocated from the Japanese-written, fantasy-based world.

I had never seen Kiki’s Delivery Service and had no idea about its setting, the amalgamation of a sort of Swedish, northern and wester European town. I couldn’t help but immediately think of Rothenburg ob der Tauber following my trip there earlier this year. But after thinking it must have been one place, I later learned it was a pastiche of many.

Anyway, suffice it to say it looked fantastic all blown up on the screen, and I really enjoyed it. I even stopped scratching my beard long enough to enjoy the American English dubbing – including the late, great Phil Hartman’s cat Jiji – because although it’s a Japanese production, the setting is so generally and broadly European as to not need the language and dialogue to match any one place.

This weekend, the Kiln is showing Coco, which I guess is an even more Hallowe’en-themed film than Kiki (and is fantastic, of course). We have Coco on blu-ray as well, come to think of it. Anyway, I hope they show some more Ghibli films soon.