Review: Porco Rosso (1992)

Directed by:
Cast: , , ,

Distributed in Australia by:

Yes, I know what you’re thinking, is this yet another review that waxes lyrical about the genius of Hayao Miyazaki?
Well, guess what, you win a million dollars!
Well, you would if I had the money in the first place!

But how could I not? Porco Rosso is one of my favourite Miyazaki films and worth every damn cent you didn’t get from me. A spirited film that surprises and fills you with a sense of elation each time you watch it. Yes, pigs can fly and in fact, according to Porco “A pig who doesn’t fly is just an ordinary pig”. See, the pig is cool.

Where do I begin? Porco is a grumpy, self-loathing pilot pig who wants little to do with the human race. He lives in a secluded lagoon and hunts sea pirates for a living. He smokes too much and holds a burning torch for a thrice-widowed singer. And boy can he fly a plane!

It’s the end of the 1920s, the Great Depression has set in and Fascism is on the rise. The first World War is over, but still fresh in peoples’ minds. Nestled somewhere between Italy and the former Yugoslavia, in the Adriatic Sea is where Porco hides away from society, in a tent… on the beach…by himself, only coming out when he has to hunt down those disagreeable but still lovable sea-pirates.
Porco is so good at this he becomes somewhat of a romantic hero for the ladies but regarded as a annoying twat for the men.
Of course, his mystique is enhanced further by the fact that he has a face of a pig.

As you watch the film, you realise this is not some curse put on by a wicked witch that can only be lifted by a kiss from a beautiful princess. How he became one is of minor concern in this story, but why he chose to be one is important.
This is a journey of a man disenchanted with the world and became a pig and is unexpectedly rejuvenated for life again. Along the road of rediscovery, there are thrilling dogfights, new friends, a larger than life American wannabe Errol Flynn and the seaplane race of a lifetime, fighting for honour, money and the girl.

Despite boasting a weighty political subplot, taking into consideration the complicated time in history the film was set in, it never detracts from the central narrative which is always entertaining and amusing. It is still one rip-roaring, swashbuckling adventure of the skies.
Scenes of Porco flying his beloved red seaplane are inspiring and the stuff of legends. You are not witnessing a pig flying a plane, you ARE in the plane with him and helping him steer, damn it!
You feel as free as Porco does when he swerves, dips and loops his plane and you share his sense of joy when he views the inviting ocean, shimmering in the sunlight.

I’m always so impressed by how perfect the Ghibli team evoke the sense of time in their films. That is not to say everything is historically correct but in Porco Rosso the the Italian coastline is rendered so lovingly that you can smell the salt in the air.
Every divine frame in this film makes me want to put on my bathers and jump into the Adriatic Sea. If you’re stuck in a cold city and sick of the cold like me, then this is akin to taking a celluloid holiday.
And now imagine seeing this on the big screen. Wow.

So, if the Ghibli showcase is happening in your town, then get out there and see it. It’d be the cheapest holiday you’ve ever taken and worth every penny.

9.5 stripey deckchairs out of 10.
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