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Porco_Rosso_(Movie_Poster)  When I was a young child I had the pleasure, without even knowing it, of growing up with one of Hayao Miyazaki‘s most famous films My Neighbor Totoro (1988). My mother remembers how upset I was when she gave the film away, and to this day it remains one of my favorites. That being said, when I was seventeen I started watching and exploring Miyazaki-san’s other films out of curiosity. Over the last five years I have come to love all of his movies, but it took time for me to appreciate each one. This film in particular I have come to cherish because of its gentle nature and bright humor, but I had quite a negative opinion of it before I watched it. At first I refused to acknowledge this film because it looked ridiculous, but against  my “better” judgment I saw it with my family when they bought a copy of it at a yard sale. I discovered that I shouldn’t base my opinions on what I see on the surface of a cover and that this film, like people, was much more complicated than it initially appeared.

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CINEMATOGRAPHY/ANIMATION: 5/5

Hayao Myazaki’s animation style is one of the most beautiful, dynamic and artistic I have ever seen. Throughout all his films, even ones as old as Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984) and  Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986), there is a rich, vibrant wholeness, or liveliness that persists from beginning to end. Porco Rosso is no exception. In a word, this film is magical. Everything from the colors, to the shadowing, and the movement of the characters blends perfectly with the story. It is rather interesting that this film is placed right before World War II in the Adriatic and Italy, but has such a colorful, lighthearted look and feel to it. Personally, I thought that it made it all the more endearing to know that when the world was falling into chaos there were still places that could shine so brightly.

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PLOT/STORY: 5/5

I have never encountered a story like this before. {I seem to say this about all of Miyazaki-san’s movies. . .} Placed in the Adriatic during the 1920s, the film focuses on the life of a man who calls himself Porco Rosso. In the beginning, we are taken to an enclosed private beach where Porco receives a call from his employer to catch some pirates who have attacked a ship. He uncovers his face to show that he is completely normal, except that he has the face of a pig. Being presented with a less then beautiful, flawed protagonist we are thence swept off into the life of sea plane pirates and the Adriatic. From beginning to end people do wholly unexpected things. Some cross gender roles and others like the pirates are shown as honorable, quirky people. Is there a conflict between good and evil? Yes, but not in a way we are familiar with in modern film. There is no villain in this story; there are only people, who are flawed of course but still needed and important. The thing that makes this story so magnetic is it simple complexity. Like in many of his other films, Miyazaki-san not only showed moments of high adventure but also stopped and took the time to show the beauty of the sunset on the ocean or ponder or the natural elegance of Gina’s garden. Most importantly perhaps was the change evident in all the characters. It is extremely difficult to truly capture a character’s transformation at the end of a film and harder still to show it’s progress. Miyazaki-san captured this growth masterfully in ways that many animating directors cannot because they are so focused on keeping their audience entertained.

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CHARACTERS: 5/5

It is too difficult to explain the character’s complexity as a whole. They are all so real that when I stop watching the movie it takes me a while to realize that they aren’t real people. I will try to explain it by looking at two of the main characters.

First, there is Porco, or Marco, Rosso. He is what some would call the reluctant hero in the broadest sense but to me he was much more intriguing than that. Though he seemed to openly accept his transformation and to not care about anything beyond his own affairs, he opened himself up enough to show that he carried terrible burden of guilt and cared more for people then he is willing to admit. For example, after being the sole survivor of a terrible air fight during World War I he caught a glimpse of many different planes, all of different nationalities, flying toward heaven. He watched as his best friend passed by him and without any control over his aircraft descended away from the other ethereal planes back into the real world with the face of a pig. It became clear that he accepted his appearance because he believed he deserved it. How did he change? For me it was when he decided to fight for another person rather than for himself. Before then he had closed himself off from everyone around him, even his childhood friend Gina whom he had clearly loved for some time but was unwilling to admit it.

Another character that I particularly like is Gina. From the moment she was introduced as the gracious, beautiful hostess of the Hotel Adriano singing “Le temps Des Cerises” (The Time of Cherries) I felt that she was silently grieving. After losing four husbands to war and aerial accidents it was clear that she had grown numb to her heart ache. It was strange watching her at times because she seemed to drift away from you. Yet, despite this sadness that burdened her she was still a strong person. When she passively remarked to the brash, young pilot Curtis that she was still waiting for the man she loved, Porco, to meet her in her garden I couldn’t help but wonder if she would no longer willingly pursue what seemed impossible. Happiness, apparently was something that she was willing to wait for if it meant that she did not have to fight against a world that had robbed her too many times before.

I doubt I am giving these characters justice. For me, the fact that it is so hard for me to understand them is a compliment. It means that they are more than your basic off the shelf prince charmings or damsels in distress. This is the same for all of the characters in the film. Honestly there isn’t a dull copy, cut-out character in the entire movie. That is something that I thoroughly appreciate. 

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MUSIC: 5/5

I won’t say too much about the music in this review. I am a fan of Joe Hisaishi‘s, or Mamoru Fujisawa’s beautiful style and enjoy all of the soundtracks he has composed. He captured the light, almost subdued feel of the movie wonderfully. There isn’t much to say other than he is one of the many geniuses like Hans Zimmer whose talent is irreplaceable.

PERSONAL ENJOYMENT: 5/5

I love this film and recommend it for everyone. Some of his other films I wouldn’t just because many people are averse to more foreign films. It is funny and wonderful to watch and I hope that people won’t quickly dismiss it because of where it comes from or because it is different.

OVERALL SCORE: 5/5

FAVORITE QUOTE:

[Curtis and Porco have run out of ammo when Curtis attempts to shoot Porco with a revolver]

“I refuse to end this match with a draw!”

“Hahaha… This isn’t a Western, you can’t hit me from there.”

[One of the bullets hits the side of Porco’s plane]

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