Night On the Galactic Railroad (1985)

November 17, 2003 • Film, Reviews

Country: Japan
Director: Gisaburo Sugii
Producer: Masato Hara
Writer: Minoru Betsuyaku


Running Time: 113 Min

Plot: On the night of a cat village’s Festival of the Stars, a kitten and his friend go on an celestial journey on a magical space locomotive. On that trip, they have various stops where they meet strange sights, even more unusual fellow passengers and learn some lessons of life on their trip to the terminus of the Galactic Railroad.

A small, scene for scene, almost line-for-line adaptation of reclusive writer Kenji Miyazawa’s unfinished masterwork. In this version, the characters are all played by cats or bears. Besides that strange and actually very effective twist, and the rare moment of beauty in the production, Miyazawa’s novella doesn’t exactly come alive here, thanks to sluggish direction and generally ugly visuals. The music is pretty good, and sometimes the mood is really there, capturing the tale of two friends taking a ride on a train that travels through the Milky Way. As the friends journey on, they find beautiful images of both buddhism and christianity (Miyazawa himself studied Christianity, but remained a Nichiren buddhist), as well as intimations of death and salvation.
Miyazawa was a one-of-a-kind writer, and this is a one-of-a-kind book. It deserves a better movie, or none at all.

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