Harry possesses none of the fairytale virtues: no great strength or speed or cunning. When they were handing out panaceas, the poor kid must have been grounded. His destiny follows him, as other people make it. (“She knows more about you than you do,” Ron says.” Harry’s reply is from someone losing to his identity crisis: “Who doesn’t?”).
The film blasts an affectionate symphony of action spy movie set pieces, which Bird composes with such a self-believing style that he reminds me less of a director than of a virtuoso performer. And even they become a back-drop to what is essentially a mid-life crisis film, about a man who misses himself so much that he doesn’t even notice he has a family. Bird offers a genre fattened on mythic pretension a trimming alternative of joyous energy and dazzling characters.
Fukasaku proves to be a master of the micro-story, the combinations of tiny joys and creeping terrors into one huge, fleeting, emotional whole. After decades of cultural regression, he evokes Japanese cinema’s desperate, horrific roar. It has a primal beauty, of the kind that will always be repressed, misunderstood.
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day stays in your memory like soda bubbles on your lip because it’s just as fizzy, confectionary, and neutral to your health. It’s the most “nothing movie,” as Billy Wilder said of The Seven Year Itch, but today that reminds me so achingly of the frivolous oldies that I can’t help but swoon.