Porco Russo (d. Hayao Miyazaki Japan 1992)

Please read ‘On Reviews‘ for a guide to how I write film reviews. Any spoilers are appropriately marked and, though I personally prefer to know little about a film before seeing it, there is a synopsis at the bottom for any who wish to see one.

There appears to be a small war being waged in the animated worldToy Story (d. John Lasseter USA 1995) and Pixar, and their main competitors in this field – Dreamworks (Shrek (d. Andrew AdamsonVickey Jenson USA 2001)), have driven CGI animated films into the forefront of family or children’s films. This previously being a position held by cartoon or drawn animation with the likes of Disney or to a smaller degree Don Bluth. However, this isn’t without competition, you still get the odd cartoon animated film here and there. Sometimes Disney will throw in one or two. But they aren’t a huge part of the the Family/Children’s genre anymore. But whenever there is a huge change there is also those who push forward with the idea of the old age and how effective that can be. The fight seems to be mostly upheld by Studio Ghibli, a hugely successful company headed by Hayao Miyazaki. This company, painstakingly, put a lot of effort on hand drawn animation and have received wonderful results for it. They seem to effectively be making the argument that, though CGI has it’s place, it isn’t everything and still can’t achieve everything. Now, Studio Ghibli may have grown out of Japan thanks to the much awaited Princess Mononoke / Mononoke-Hime (d. Miyazaki Japan 1997) and got world attention most of all for Spirited Away / Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (d. Miyazaki Japan 2001), but there is a huge body of work there. With this attention though, a lot of time and effort and some huge actors have come in to ensure the success of these features over seas. For example, Howl’s Moving Castle / Hauru no Ugoku Shiro (d. Miyazaki Japan 2004) has Christian Bale as a voice actor for Howl. With the growth of Studio Ghibli it was inevitable that there would be certain cinemas devoting a season to showing their films. This is all the more welcome as most people would come to Studio Ghibli in hindsight and on DVD and wouldn’t have the opportunity to see it on the silver screen. Porco Russo (d. Miyazaki Japan 1992) is just an example of the kind of films that are being shown at the Prince Charles Cinema

Porco Russo is perhaps not the largest of Studio Ghibli’s oeuvre but it certainly has all the tropes that make Studio Ghibli strong. Much like Disney, Studio Ghibli has some fantastical scenery and warm emotional stories at it’s core. Despite the Japanese tint that might seem a bit strange and may even be the appeal for some westerners, it is captivating for most audiences. Porco Russo isn’t the hugest and I can’t recommend it as a starting film to get into Studio Ghibli but it certainly has its place. It has an endearing way to play to it’s characters who live in odd times and fight some struggling battles. The strength of the character Flo is rather progressionist and really fits in to current times where Disney is still trying to understand this. I personally find that a lot of the Anime style of Studio Ghibli feels a bit ‘washy’ and lacks detail. This feels a lot more fitting for it’s target audience and doesn’t detract from rather effective uses of colours, landscapes and characters. However, for me, who’s plunged into a lot of what Anime has to offer, I prefer a lot more detail in my images. This isn’t really a criticism but more so personal taste and I do recall early Disney in the way they managed their landscapes effectively. 

On the big screen? Well, the tale is charming and family friendly, you get into the struggles of the characters without it feeling too dangerous or epic and therefore there isn’t a huge benefit from seeing it on the big screen. Yes it expands upon the landscapes of the film and emphasises the moments when the characters are in the air. But this isn’t essential and is more of a cherry on the cake than the cake itself. Certainly has it’s magic and is enhanced but it isn’t a huge difference. 

So all in all this was a very enjoyable watch but not the best of Studio Ghibli. On the big screen one of the biggest advantages is that it brings a somewhat rare but absolutely huge part of cinema to more of the mainstream masses. The audience loved it and the films are definitely getting the turn out they could have hoped for. Whether these films will change the face of the Animated world is debatable but they certainly have their place and it seems to be growing. This was a wonderful watch and although the Studio Ghibli season is now over (as of). I would not be surprised to see it make a return and if so then it is worth checking out one of their biggest, Princess Mononoke / Mononoke-hime or Spirited Away / Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi or Howl’s Moving Castle / Hauru no Ugoku Shiro or if you are already sold by Studio Ghibli, just about any are well worth a look on the big screen. It brings a bit of magical quality to the experience.

Synopsis

In a future ravaged by war a girl finds a legendary pilot who’s been turned into a pig and is therefore none as porco russo, helping him with his troubles they take part in a race that sees the advancement of them both.

Further Reading

Studio Ghibli

Prince Charles Cinema

Movies of Studio Ghibli Ranked from Worst to Best

Interview with Hayao Miyazaki

Pixar vs Studio Ghibli

Disney vs Studio Ghibli



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