Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Porco Rosso

This could very easily turn from a review of one film to an open love letter to Studio Ghilbi; the Japanese animation company who may just be up there with Pixar in terms of quality output. Unlike Pixar, who make kids films adults will love, Ghibli make films for adults that make them feel like kids. The colour palettes are always bright and the tones are innocent, little dramas with feel good endings. I think the critics favourite Ghibli film is Princess Mononoke, mainly because it has larger scope and metaphors galore. Girls will love My Neighbour Tortoro because it has a really cute . . . thing? at its centre and a cat that is also an invisible bus. Artists will love Spirited Away the most because on that film the studio go loopy with the fictional characters; while the artwork is as good as ever they introduce more and more wonderful, mythical creatures. But for me, my favourite has got to be Porco Rosso.
Porco Rosso is a boys own adventure type film about a sea-plane pilot who fights pirates in the Adriatic in the years after World War I. It is entirely incidental that the lead is a pig, apart from some clever quips and personality traits this is merely a quirky design touch. This film has an effortless cool about it, Porco himself is a gruff antihero in the Indianna Jones mold. He begrudgingly goes about his business saving the day, leaving a trail of swooning women in his wake and approaching all situations with a sigh, whether it be repairing his planes engine to a dog fight to the death.
It feels daft remarking about what makes this film so good. It is trademark Ghibli, the whole thing is unbelievably pretty and inventive and everything from the plot to the dialogue works effortlessly. I recommend the English dub over subtitles because a) most of the action doesn’t show the characters mouths b) the dub is excellent, especially Michael Keaton as Porco who brings a more cool gruff than the Japanese mumble and c)for American audiences they added more wisecracks.
I think the reason I love this one the most is as a cynical male I relate much more to Porco than some whining little brat. The tone is ever so slightly darker, it takes place somewhat in facist Italy and there is a real feel of danger and death throughout. The finale focus on a dog fight between a properly dangerous foe and the build-up and drama in that is exquisite. This is a slow burning film, by no means would I describe it as action, but the finale is an edge of seat delight.
Finally I cannot emphasise how goddamn cool this film. It’s got adventure and wonder men will love, none of this forest spirit bollocks but airplanes, and beautiful ladies, and machine guns and danger. The world is populated by rogues and antiheroes, even schoolgirls are maniacally evil. The direction lingers and takes it time, more than that though this is a slow film that many qualities stop it ever dragging.
Anything by Ghibli is an absolute must watch, but this particular film is one of my all-time favourites and you should definitely check it out. It is also perhaps the most western friendly and the good dubbing mean people who are not fans of subtitles can easily get into it.

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