on 20 June 2005
Get over the curious fact that the hero of this story is an Italian WWI aviator curiously transformed into a pig and you won't fail to be amazed by 'Porco Rosso'. It's another Studio Ghibli classic and equal to any of their other movies including 'Spirited Away'.
Porco Rosso (Crimson Pig) is a bounty hunter living in the Adriatic in the 1920s. He makes a living by flying his superb seaplane fighter and combatting the local air-pirates (also flying seaplanes) whilst admiring (from a distance) the woman he secretly loves (Gina). Again, don't get hung up on the pig thing: this is a mature and effective plot with some hard hitting political subtleties if you look closely and some spot on historical facts. The animation is first rate (as always with Ghibli) and some of the backgrounds are masterpieces: look closely at some of the framed paintings in Gina's room for example.
Where 'Porco Rosso' really shines is in the air. The flying sequences are truly exhilirating and Messers Spielberg & Lucas don't come close (really!). As always this is clearly a labour of love and art not commerce.
Oh: do me a favour and watch the subtitled Japanese version. You know it makes sense... :-)
on 14 February 2006
Porco Rosso is a film that I have fond memories of, having first seen it during the early half of the mid-nineties as part of a Sky Movies double alongside Miyazaki's more acknowledged early masterpiece My Neighbour Totoro. Totoro is a fantastic film, one that can be enjoyed by an audience of any age, but it is the sublime Porco Rosso that always had the greater resonance for me, and as a result, is the film that I have returned to again and again over the course of the last decade.
The story is more complicated than some of Miyazaki's previous (or indeed, later) works, with the narrative unfolding around our titular central character, an Italian First World War fighter pilot (literally) cursed with the features of a pig, now living as a freelance bounty hunter chasing "air pirates" in the Adriatic Sea!! The reason why Porco has been cursed is never fully explained, with Miyazaki leaving only the vaguest suggestion of clues and hints before getting on with the more serious story at hand. Here, unlike great films such as Kiki's Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, Miyazaki takes a story that is rooted in a recognisable historical period, choosing to focus on the era between the first and second world wars, the rise of Fascism and the great depression (which is here referenced on separate occasions). Added to this, we also have notions of romance (with Porco's relationship with hotel/club owner Gina perhaps offering a sense of redemption), the central adventure story involving Porco and the "air pirates", as well as feuds and rivalries (chiefly between Porco and the chauvinistic American pilot Curtis) and even a father/mentor type relationship to be found between Porco and his young aide Fio.
The film moves along at a great pace, offering moments of jaw-dropping action/animation and some wonderfully rendered character interaction. As with all the films from the Studio Ghibli production house, the animation here is staggering throughout, with Miyazaki demonstrating an intuitive grasp of how to capture, not only the dizzying scenes of action and mid-air acrobatics, but also the dramatic scenes too. The colours are strong and capture the feeling of time and the essence of the place and period, whilst the overall attention to character depth and detail goes great lengths towards cementing the backdrop of the story and also the believability of the characters. Like the most recent Miyazaki/Ghibli production, Howl's Moving Castle, Porco Rosso is a film that will appeal to children, but will also offer deeper themes that can be enjoyed and appreciated by adults and adolescents. The historical and political aspects for example are well handled, offering a further arc to the main story, without getting in the way of the action or the characters.
In this respect, Porco Rosso could very easily be considered a perfect film (for me at least), with several of the plot strands (amongst them the delicate romance between Porco and Gina, which seems positively pregnant with a subtle sense of sadness, as well as the different relationships that Porco has with Fio and Curtis) reaching a real emotional peak, whilst even managing to remain in my thoughts for the best part of a decade!! The film might lack an obvious sense of closure, leaving many aspects of Porco's past-life completely vague, but for me, this simply created a sense of mystique and a reason to see the film again!!! Porco Rosso is a magical film, and alongside works like My Neighbour Totoro, Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle, is a masterpiece from the always magnificent Studio Ghibli.
on 7 February 2008
I was hooked on Ghibli a few months ago and now have all the collection. It is the rolls royce of animation. I love the way that girls and women feature in all his work. More often than not they are the heroines of the movie but even when not Miyazaki is at pains to show that nothing is beyond their capabilities. In this film the genius aero engineer is Fio, a young and beautiful woman who is building her first plane from scratch....and as the italian men have all disappeared, recruited into the army, it is the village women who actually build the plane. The other loves of Miyazaki have got to be: cats, wildlife and the environment, planes and trains.
I will have to be patient until the next Ghibli comes out (Ponyo)
on 22 August 2007
This is beautiful to look at, and the soundtrack is perfectly sweet and romantic. The story is good fun, lightly amusing in places, with a possibility of romance. The flying sequences are very clever. The characters are all interesting. Gina is the beautiful widow who is unlucky with husbands, and good friends with Porco. Fio is a pretty teenager who rebuilds a plane for Porco. Curtis is a flash American pilot who is hired to shoot down Porco, by the air pirates. They provide most of the light humour.
The curse, which turns Porco into a pig, he believes is brought upon him because during a dogfight, he only thinks of himself and his survival. He survives but the rest of his flight are killed. One reviewer obviously was not paying attention at the end. Watch and listen very carefully to what Curtis says.
on 23 February 2007
i really, really loved watching this! The characters are great and the planes are even better. the air pirates are the most funny characters i've seen and they had me giggling like a little school girl.
this movie is really great, despite being about a piggy pilot. I think anyone could enjoy this, but especially adults because of the humor. its one of my favourite studio ghibli films, despite not having a deeper meaning or not being that epic. its just charming and it just exists. please buy it!
on 18 January 2009
Utterly gorgeous to look at, with at least two of the most beautiful sequences of animation ever filmed. But also very funny, engaging, and thoughtful by turns. Plenty here for film fans of any age and persuasion, plotlines ranging from old-fashioned unrequited love (Gina and Marco) to adventure (Porco v. just about everybody else in the air), to political intrigue (secret police etc), but the main focus is less the story than the sheer romance of flying and rescuing fantastic machines amid wonderful scenery. When Porco tells Fio the story of how he came to be cursed - which is all a bit existential, not that that matters at all - it's perhaps the most poignant scene of any animated film: gently enigmatic, glorious to see, and just plain heartbreaking, all at once.
I first saw the film just over 10 years ago, slightly intrigued by what all the fuss was about, and loved it straightaway. Since then I've watched it probably every other year. More surprisingly, despite plenty of competition from fine newer releases by Miyazaki, Pixar et al., my children adore this film it as much as ever (they were 5-ish on first seeing it, so 15-ish now and still wanting to see it) - that's quite a test of the Crimson Pig's durability.
Miyazaki, on form, is arguably the best hand-drawn animator alive. Porco Rosso is among his very finest work.
on 30 December 2008
This little known Ghibli masterpiece can be overlooked for a few reasons, it IS alot slower than the most famous of ghiblis, and it is a bit less 'magic' but nevertheless, the story is wonderful, the pace is more peaceful but the beautiful animation, humour and action packed plot keep you hooked all the way through.
Set in the mediterranean, it animates the italian and french life with a loving wit (every vehicle is a fiat in Milan!). Miyazaki is in his prime writing and animating planes, which he loves, both the aesthetics and mechanics of the crafts obviously comes naturally to him.
Although Miyazaki never explains Porco's transformation into a pig, it only adds to the replay value of the film, each time i watch it i notice something new and appreciate it even more.
This is my fourth time watching this film now and i can say that it is a gripping, witty and touching story, a step away from the fantastical world we might be used to with ghibli, but if you can accept that, then you can appreciate and enjoy this amazing film again and again.
An animated film for a more adult audience which stars an ace vigilante pilot who happens to be a pig - this shouldn't work on many different levels.
...But this is a Studio Ghibli film and not only do you accept the pig anti-hero without any real explanation, but it feels natural. The film is guilty of romanticising the first world war, but as with many other Japanese films (and particularly anime) this appears to be an alternate war to the one of our reality and the classic European backdrop does make for a romantic film with good old fashioned chivalry at its heart. Having said that though, when having a flashback to an aerial battle we do get to see the futility of war, and the lasting effect that death has on a loved one is a constant theme of the film.
As you'd expect from Ghibli, the animation is top notch and quite beautiful with an accompanying score which enhances the visuals. Porco comes across as gruff and sexist, perhaps just reflecting values of the time - but he quite literally is a chauvinist pig! His reluctance to take on board young female engineer Fio eventually starts to chip away at his hard exterior and we see something of the man beneath. Hayao Mayazaki's films are famous for their strong female leads (Kiki, Princess Monoke, etc) and in despite the heroism of Porco, he becomes reliant on female assistance, they are the real unsung heroes of the film.
Central to the film is a romantic relationship between Porco and the widow of one of his friends. Again this introduces another strong female as she carries herself in a reserved and dignified way, she also happens to run a bar and is commands the respect of both the pilot and pirate community. Her telephone conversations with Porco where she is sickened with worry are a good example of how this film is best understood and enjoyed by a more mature audience.
In a nutshell: A First World War film with a difference. Romance, enlightenment, and a feint but ever-present anti-war message help to bring this animated film to life. Miyazaki shows us again that we can exercise our imaginations without losing believability. The characters in this film feel as real, in many cases more-so, than many other non-animated films which happen to not star a pig.
on 13 February 2009
Porco Rosso is another Studio Ghibli gem. If you understand Pokemon you will get the themes and story lines in Studio Ghibli films. Porco Rosso is easy on the eye and brain. A selfish fighter pilot survives a fight his friend doesn't and he is commissioned by his friend to look after his now widow while being cursed (pig appearance) and dodging different authorities. The film deals with some quite adult themes such as death, relationships, bigotry, war and in the case of Porco Rosso challenging his beliefs about women and their place in society but it is done with an element of humour and satirical comedy. It seems to end abruptly but perhaps I missed something and I will have to watch it a few more times to get the ending - not everything is USA and have to have a conclusion. Our first purchase from Studio Ghibli was 'Howls moving Castle' which all ages in our family loved, we were very pleased with this second helping from SG. Its PG rating however is earned and you will be pestered by the very young with 'why' and 'whats that mean'. It is typical of Studio Ghibli.
It is the 1920's, and the Adriatic is plagued by sky-pirates, terrorising shipping in souped-up seaplanes. Facing off against them is the greatest pilot of them all - the mercenary known as Porco Rosso: The Crimson Pig.
This is a story of heroism, comedy, love and redemption, and the animators get more conviction out of an animated pig than many real-life actors can manage. Set against the rise of fascism in post-Great War Italy, Porco Rosso offers a story about why someone would adandon their humanity, and what it takes for them to get it back, in the middle of the most beautifully animated sequences of flight I've ever seen. Miyazaki loves his flight sequences, and it is this film which showwcase his love and skill more than any other he has done.
Coupled with a cast of well-drawn supporting characters and Ghibli's refusal to view heroes or villains as anything other than people with motivations and flaws, Porco Rosso is as skillful a piece of filmmaking as you're likely to see.
For my money, this is Studio Ghibli's best film, which means that it is one of the best anime films ever produced. You'll love it, and so will your friends and any children you have about the place.