Porco Rosso

Porco Rosso ★★★★

A film about fascism, sky pirates, and a bounty hunter with the head of a pig that barely stops to acknowledge any of it, just expects you to climb aboard. So charming it hurts. 

If the overt influences on Castle in the Sky led to that film feeling a bit overcrowded, the homage and playful repositioning here in Porco Rosso is just exhilarating. Somehow Miyazaki spins a narrative which takes its cues from noir cinema, wartime dramas, westerns and fairy tales into a leisurely 94 minutes, not one of which feels too dense or rushed. A natural byproduct is that this isn’t the most nuanced of Miyazaki’s work, but I hardly count that against it — if anything, its simplicity allows for the clearest demonstration of the kindhearted optimism that lies at the center of all his films. On top of that, there’s a genuine sense of melancholy that befits Porco Rossi’s mid-century, wartime setting, defined less by man’s abuse of technology and nature than by his abuse at the hands of technology or his own nature. Although the film’s most beautiful scene is a direct precursor to The Wind Rises, the rest works out to be rather a proto-Pirates of the Caribbean exploration of heroism in a world that either commercializes it or grows too small for it, swallowing up the hero in the process. 

Baffling to me how this is consistently pegged as lower tier Miyazaki. It’s just as rapturous, enthralling and edifying as anything he’s ever done (any thesis which posits men are pigs awaiting an act of grace to turn them back is one that I can get behind), and subtly moving in ways that are still working in the back of my mind. This isn’t Miyazaki’s best, or even my favorite, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up being the one I return to most often. 

“Sorry, baby. Gotta fly.”

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