One lovely chemical process of Ben Riverss Sack Barrow
  • One lovely chemical process of Ben Rivers’s Sack Barrow

Whenever I watch Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro—which I finally saw on 35-millimeter at the Gene Siskel Film Center this week—I’m astonished by how vividly the film conjures memories of early childhood that I seldom recall on my own. The memories start materializing in the first few minutes, as the young heroines are exploring their new home. Miyazaki and his animators devote such nuance to plants, shadows, and planks of wood—things I’d probably take for granted today, if I encountered them in real life—that I feel as though I’m sharing in the girls’ discovery. Yes, I always think, this is how the world looked when I was four or five or six years old. Small things were still new to me, and they possessed a commanding power. If I studied them closely enough, I could imagine stories in the patterns of carpets or wrought iron.