PG, for "Porco Gordo". This was always touted as one of the more adult "PG" movies and I call shannigans. I was afraid to show this to my kids, but they would love it. Sure, they wouldn't catch the fascism references. But there's little to no blood. The language is fairly tame. Oh, wait! That final fight sequence, while humorous, is pretty violent. Okay, I still think my kids could handle this one. Again, Henry would complain, but that's Henry. PG.
DIRECTOR: Hayao Miyazaki
Speed run! I don't have a lot of time to write this one today, so we'll see how good this gets. I started watching this one when I was doing the podcast episode (which you can listen to here). Once I recorded it, I realized that I had watched way too much to possibly discuss on a podcast episode. But if I have ever been criticized for anything, it's being over-prepared. Regardless, I felt bad --I ACTUALLY FELT BAD --that I didn't get a chance to finish Porco Rosso before recording. It is one of the Miyazaki big ones (a formal film term). It might be the least viewed of the major movies that he made, but it is still considered one of his masterpieces.
I was actually kind of warned against this one. People were telling me that "It was good, but it is his weakest movie." I don't know about that. I really liked it. Admittedly, the movie was something very different from what I expected. I know that Miyazaki goes pretty anti-war on stuff, so I was thinking that this was going to be more Grave of the Fireflies (I know, it's Imamura. Shut up.) than what it actually was. I honestly thought that this was going to be heavy handed and the pig thing was going to be something out of Animal Farm where he represented something much much darker. Nope. He's a pig because he was pig-headed as a human. I didn't mean to talk about this now, but since I am there and I'm flying without constraints. I really like the pig storyline, but it is so odd that it is in this movie. The movie, tonally, is just a war action movie. It follows Porco, who used to be named something else when he was human (Mario?), who is just this amazing mercenary pilot. He's really cocky and fights air pirates, of which we can now add to the Miyazaki motifs. He is being chased by the Italian army for being a deserter and he doesn't like the war, despite the fact that he kills for money. What part of that is fantasy? Instead, Miyazaki adds this whole bizarre element of fantasy to this story. It's very cool, but I'm sure that every one of the people in the production of this movie asked "So why is he a pig again?" The rest of the world isn't inundated with fantasy. It's not like there are trolls. I totally get magical realism, but this is almost taking it a step further because Porco is the only mythical creature in this world and everyone is very cool with it. In fact, they are not taken aback that a man with a pig head walks through a door. They are intimidated by his amazing flying prowess. Good job, progressive future. You finally did it. It's just such an odd thing. But this also ties into the fact that, while I love both directors I'm about to mention, they might have hints of one-trick ponydom. I always think of Woody Allen as a genius of limited talent. If you take offense to that, remember, he's a terrible human being. He keeps making the same movies over and over again. These movies mostly are great. The framework is a solid one, so he can keep retelling the same tales again and again, but it does get tiring after a while. I haven't gotten tired of Miyazaki, but I keep seeing the same things time and again.
The metamorphosis element is there again. When the character is doing something altruistic or his self-esteem is healthy, people see him as a dude again. The same thing is true in Howl's Moving Castle. The air pirates? Both of these can kind of be seen in The Castle of Cagliostro and Castle in the Sky. The nerding out over airplane plans (this could really cover his entire work) can be seen in The Wind Rises. There's a fine line between motif and him making the same movie while swapping parts. The Wind Rises might not be fair because that movie feels very different from his other movies, but I think it still bears scrutiny. I don't want to condemn Miyazaki though. I love when people get passionate about what they love. Every time I see him do airplane stuff, it does seem like he is having a lot of fun with it. Porco Rosso might be the most indulgent over it, considering that the whole movie is about a flying ace. It is very fun. For a guy who is so anti-war, he really enjoys a good dogfight. It's so odd that he made the American the villain. I'm not used to that. I'm used to the American stereotype and I think it works here. The thing about the American villain is that we do make a solid villain. We're looking at the Gaston traits from Beauty and the Beast. (I know, he's French!) But the idea that the braggart is automatically the villain is pretty typical and Jungian and all that nonsense. But then I realized, and I think the movie realizes this too, that Curtis isn't all that bad. Yeah, he makes a pretty solid antagonist. He's very cocky and toxicly masculine. Okay, but so is Porco. (It's very weird that Porco is constantly referred to as a womanizer, but is still seen as heroic. This was another time.) Like I said, Miyazaki kind of realizes this too and resolves the character showing that there really isn't an antagonist in this movie except for the fact that Porco Rosso is constantly fleeing a life of service in exchange for freedom. His goal is to maintain the lifestyle of his choice. If anything, the antagonist is military service. That might get some people angry.
One of the more uncomfortable elements in the story is the objectification of a seventeen-year-old girl. I know. Different culture, different time, but it seems like Miyazaki is aware of how gross this is. Fio is constantly defined by her age and her gender in this movie. Her archetype has shown up before. She's our genius character, despite expectations. The juxtaposition of what is expected out of an aviation junkie and what we actually see is where the story lies and I like that a lot. Fio is Kaylee from Firefly. It's a great character. I like it. But the character instantly becomes sexualized both through the art of the film and the way that people treat her. She is instantly described as forbidden fruit to Porco by Fio's grandfather. He then comments on Porco's infamous womanizing and Grandfather constantly reminds Porco of her age. Admittedly, Porco respects that boundary, but he is constantly flustered by being around this girl who may or may not be attracted to him. I think that's neither here nor there, so I'm going to move on. But then Claude comes into the picture and is instantly smitten by her. Part of that is because he thinks he is stealing something from Porco, but also he seems like he views Fio as a prize to be won. If this was Fio's objectification in isolation, I would say "Fine, that's what makes Claude the antagonist. He's gross." But no. The rest of the air pirates also view Fio as something to be obtained. It's a weird choice to do with this trope, especially considering that Miyazaki seems to be aware of the character choices that he gives Fio. It's gross. All I'm saying.
I really had fun with this one. Again, I talk about objectifying little girls and anti-war themes, but it is really just one of Miyazaki's more fun movies, especially if you are into dogfighting and aerial acrobatics. I do actually recommend it and I'm glad I watched it. I might even let the kids watch it one day.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.