Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Voice work by Michael Keaton, Cary Elwes, Brad Garrett, Susan Egan, Kimberly Williams-Paisley
Review by Jordan
When a director has crafted a collection of films so distinguished they’ve become part of a country’s film culture, an unfortunate truth is that the less revered entries can often be forgotten in favor of what are deemed their absolute masterpieces: Studio Ghibli founder Hayao Miyazaki is not only one of Japan’s greatest ever directors, but one of the finest animation minds of all time – his storytelling is pure, classical and undeterred by the often strange scenarios that surface in his vivid plots – and his renowned creations as director include My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Princess Mononoke (1997), Spirited Away (2001), Howl’s Moving Castle (2001) and The Wind Rises (2013) among other superb gems.
In Australia, the three (with thanks to The Walt Disney Company) that have been spread to the widest audience remain Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo (2008), but regardless of your country of origin, age, taste or experience, there is a certain fantastic cinematic journey painted by Miyazaki in 1992 that mustn’t go unnoticed. I present to you Porco Rosso, the film that flips the saying “men can be pigs” on its head… because their are no men quite like Porco.
The story of heroic Italian WWI fighter pilot Marco Paggot now cursed to look like an anthropomorphic pig, who hides out from the Italian authorities who believe him to be a deserter in the Adriatic Sea and protects cruise ships from the sea plane pirates who patrol the skies and ocean now that the war is over, Porco Rosso is a beautiful and absorbing achievement also boasting strong tinges of feminism and an inquisitively nuanced love story that captures the heart while the aerial battles capture the imagination. This love interest of Porco’s is the irresistibly sophisticated Gina, the proprietor of an island destination reminiscent of a colorful Rick’s Cafe who is also admired by dangerous American visitor Curtis, with whom our hero ultimately has to face in a high-stakes dogfight while the Italian police tighten the net.
A film that is animated because it’s story would be impossible to tell any other way, Porco Rosso, like all other Ghibli titles, thrives on it’s bright palette and through also being structured, captured and paced like a traditional drama exists as the best of both worlds. It is a lovely, enthralling and uplifting nostalgic treat lead by a character who has accepted his lot in life and wishes good for others who deserve it more than him. He is a pig, who can fly (as he so bluntly states “a pig that doesn’t fly is just a pig”) and would rather be a pig than a fascist anyway.
He is the unassuming hero of The Adriatic envied by fellow pilots, yearned for by his old flame, admired by the young engineer tasked with rebuilding his striking red seaplane and eventually respected by his nemesis. He is Porco Rosso, and he should need no introduction.