Princess Raccoon (Operetta Tanuki Goten)
DIR Suzuki Seijun | Japan | 2005 | 111 min.
In Japanese and Chinese with English Subtitles.
Reviewed by Gloria Wong
It is sometimes said that people are the strangest people. Sometimes, I think that Japanese people are the strangest people by far. I had one of those moments at my first screening at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival. From the director of the equally colourful classic Tokyo Drifter, Princess Raccoon is a fairy tale about a young prince who is banished from his kingdom by his father after a prophecy foretells the king’s fading beauty. On his way to his new home on a damned mountain, the prince is ‘rescued’ by a beautiful princess (Zhang Ziyi). Unfortunately for the star-crossed lovers, the princess is actually an enchanted, shapeshifting raccoon. As in any good fairy tale, there are many potholes on the road to love – I mean, apart from the standard curses, bad parenting and being from different species potholes.
Though Ziyi’s career has been on a real roll since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, I don’t see this project increasing her American profile, and, for that, I applaud her choice. The film has an intentionally stagey feel that at times helps to smooth the headache-inducingly bright art direction and dizzying pastiche of cultural references and musical styles. (Er, did I mention, it’s a musical?). Princess Raccoon is daring entertainment, funny, sweet and strange in good ways for the most part.