"Porco Rosso" is a striking rarity in the Miyazaki career, and one that will probably require a bigger effort from the fans to understand. It plays with different themes than his other works; for instance, there is not an interest on developing an enviromental message, or at depicting a major conflict involving humanity and nature. The story is closer to the coming-of-age intimism of "Spirited away", "My neighbor Totoro" or -his script- "Whisper of the heart", yet it takes a radically different focus. In fact, if I had to point a similarity among his films, the one that fits better to me is "Lupin III: The castle of Cagliostro".
On the other hand it is unique because of the world it builds around. Any fans of classic Hollywood will be pleased at the amount of homages that are spread through the story, both in individual scenes and in tone. This movie holds many similarities in its more dramatic part, both aesthetical and story-based, with "Casablanca"; and the slapstick comedy that is there through the whole storyline, softening the conflicts and relationships of the characters, resembles "The quiet man".
This polarity between a heavy character drama and a dreamy comedy may be a double-edged sword, in the sense that many people will probably find this movie inconsistant in terms of its mood, but I think "Porco Rosso" does a really fine work at balancing both aspects of its storyline. The comedy never disallows the viewer from appreciating the gravity of Porco as a character, and the serious and intimist sequences don't deny the zaniness of his daily life. The best thing about this is that it allows to create a full dramatic portrayal of the main character, while bringing some kind of fabulistic charm to his lifestyle, which gives nostalgic vibes to the story. This ends up being relevant as well in the romantic view that Miyazaki brings to describe one of his childhood passions, flight engineery. In this movie it becomes completely obvious through the careful visual depiction and the spectacularity of the flying scenes.
The storyline is completely focused on Porco and the universe around him. He is definitely a complex character that goes way beyond his main defining trait. In fact, his aspect in the context of the daily relationships it's the least relevant. We are told that he is a human turned into a pig by some sort of mysterious spell, but those around him still recognize Porco as a human. Even Gina, the one that he's most closely related with, treats him as if he was the same as always. The appearances in this movie are brought for a much less superficial purpose, as this transformation is used as a metaphor for the deep wound Porco carries with humanity in general, and with himself. His bitterness, however, is contrasted in the movie. That is, instead of being exaggerated, and giving rise to an overly cynical character, the story also emphasizes on his caring side. He is shown to have friends, understand their emotions and care for them; his scenes with Gina make clear that they love and respect each other. This side of him is emphasized later with the presence of Fio and the clear effect she has in his growth as a character.
The rest of the characters, while not being as fleshed out as Porco, still hold their own charm. I am specially fascinated with Gina. She doesn't even appear too often in the story but her elegance and intimist approach increase the emotional effect of every scene she's in, and the hints on her own past are so suggestive and enveloping that, despite the lack of physical presence in the plot, she manages to create a very strong emotional involvement around her. She is there in some of the most moving moments of the story and I'm specially fond of one where a flashback of her past with Porco is shown.
Fio, on the other hand, plays the counterpart of Porco as a quick-witted and joyful girl. This simple purpose is actually conveyed in the form of a very strong and charismatic character. Her chemistry with Porco through their scenes is amazing, and another one of the key points of this story. In fact my favorite scene of the movie involves them both; with Porco narrating a defining experience of his past -in his very own way, though- and Fio hearing this whole story completely captivated, understanding, finally, the dimension of his personal conflict as a whole.
Donald Curtis and the pirates, despite being technically the antagonists of the main story, are actually quite light and charming. The arrogance of Curtis is contextualized in a way that emphasizes on his innocence rather than on an actual malice. And similarly, the pirates never come off as evil and their hate towards Porco is never treated seriously.
On the artistic level, this is a great effort overall, though probably not as satisfying as other Miyazaki movies. For example, it suffers from a lack of shading in many scenes, and the designs of the background characters don't look very inspired. However, it still keeps a lot of strength in the visual depiction of the scenarios, and places like Porco's lonely island or Gina's bar are given a distinct atmosphere that becomes very effective. The design for the main characters is simple, yet very effective, with Porco being the obvious choice as the most outstanding. The aesthetics, as said, are very closely tied to the imagery of classic films, which sort of fit very well with the Italian environment of the late 20s this movie is located at.
Similarly, the soundtrack is quite outstanding overall but not as consistantly mesmerizing as in other works of the author. Then again, this is not a very relevant issue, and I guess it has to do with the huge variety of music pieces; as this variety leading to some irregularity seems unavoidable. Anyway, if I have to choose one, it would be Tokiko Kato's version of the French Revolutionary song "Le temps des cérises", that serves to introduce Gina. Her song in the ending credits is equally beautiful.
All in all, and while it's not my favorite, it is still a Ghibli and Miyazaki movie I am very fond of. It is a little tricky to recommend here, though, because its style and themes will probably not fit the tastes of an anime fan if they are mainly interested on exploring the imagery and philosophy that are associated with the Japanese culture; in fact, I think that "Porco Rosso" is a better recommendation for movie-goers than for anime fans, in general. That doesn't mean it will be necessarily less enjoyable, but it's more likely for people with a grown interest on Western filmmaking to find points in common with this movie.
Why it says "RELEASED: October 9, 2003" when it's from 1992??? The dates are wrong, please someone correct this
Level "Interesting" • 7 :heart: • Entertaining and Good.
DISCLAIMER: I did not see this movie in its original language(Japanese), but in a dubbed version(Italian). I may have missed some nuances.
I had never seen a movie by Miyazaki (or by Studio Ghibli) before Porco Rosso. I can safely say that Mr. Miyazaki has gained a fan. This movie really captured me.
It's got a particular mix of drama and humor. On one hand you have Porco, a human turned pig, outcast from society; on the other you have the silliness of the pirates and the general comedy, almost like it is a kids movie.
The visuals are stunning. The animation is smooth and absolutely a pleasure to the eye. But the flight sequences are something else. So detailed, so realistic, with clouds that look straight out of a painting. One of my first thought was: "Someone on the team that has made this must really love planes". Sure enough, a quick google search showed that Miyazaki himself is a big aviation fan. It shows, and it's beautiful.
Character-wise, the movie really only concentrates on Porco; the side characters are not well explored. That is not to say they fill like empty husks; their story is just barely touched upon,but enough to understand them. The main character, though, I found really interesting. Porco Rosso (or Marco Pagot, before he became a pig) is an interesting guy. He seems to be the only real one to care about his own appearance. But he is not bitter about it; on the contrary, the movie showcases his caring side.
The universe in which this movie takes place is the icing on the cake, at least for me. It takes place between the two World War, but in Porco Rosso seaplanes dominate the sky. It's such an interesting idea. The seaplane is the maximum freedom a man can think of, combining boats and planes together. Not gonna lie, it made me hope for a seaplane comeback in our world.
In short, it's an interesting movie that can be funny to a kid and make an adult reflect, all in the same 90 minutes. Plus an imaginative universe, animated to perfection. What more do you want?
A largely overlooked entry in the Hayao Miyazaki catalog, about a wartime fighter pilot (turned bounty hunter) who's been cursed with the face and body of a pig. I'd skipped this one for years because the director deemed it "foolish" and, to be honest, it just didn't look all that interesting. You'd think I would know better.
As with all prime Studio Ghibli entries, it brims and bustles with life, gladly bearing a joyful appreciation for the small things and an admiration for those who seek adventure. Air force captains, sky pirates, lounge owners, engineers... each pursue excitement in their own characteristic ways, which often overlap unexpectedly. Rosso himself is a tough nut to crack, only vaguely alluding to the curse that transformed his appearance and maintaining an emotional distance for much of the story. In some ways, that's refreshing - one might expect the search for a cure to dominate the plot, when that's far from the case - but it also makes him a tricky, and often underwhelming, lead character. His unwanted, self-appointed sidekick, a spunky young designer named Fio, is much more in the mold of the classic Ghibli protagonist.
Miyazaki and company also take special care to hammer out unique identities for each airship in the story, though these do generally take a back seat to their colorful pilots. The director's lifelong ties to avionics (his father was an aeronautical engineer) and his deep-rooted understanding of their natural, graceful motion are almost as clearly evident here as they would be twenty years later, in the more personal The Wind Rises.
Vibrant and energetic, stimulating and surprising, this has everything one might expect from the famed Japanese animation house. Perhaps a half-step below their very best, largely due to the reticent lead and an abrupt climax, but still an excellent selection for all ages to share and enjoy.
Another great movie Miyazaki, with a great story and characters
My least favourite Studio Ghibli movie