Monday, 23 December 2013

Porco Rosso Review

My Porco Rosso review which was originally for Next Projection.

Studio Ghibli is renowned for its crazy yet captivating stories that spin everything on its head, creating entire playful, intricate universes for each of their stories, only linked by their visual style and thematic attachment to innocence. Porco Rosso is much the same in the canon but where the others promote strong female characters that aren't traditional, this is lead by a anthropomorphic pig pilot who fights air pirates that threaten the sea and air, and is sometimes a bit uncomfortable to the women of the story. Many moments revolve around Fio's "bum" which is "bigger-than-it-looks", feeling uncomfortably sexualised, as Porco says that them alone on an island isn't safe because he's a man which hints towards rape and also by her being ashamed of her gender and youth. Whether it's all purposeful because of its 1930 period setting is another thing but it may be ignorance or just downright offensive, causing the audience to waver; it's uncomfortable, unexpected. 

Usually the Disney dubs of Studio Ghibli's work are excellent and provided by an array of great actors but unfortunately Porco Rosso isn't one of them. Michael Keaton steps into the shoes of Porco but sounds monotonous and bored for the entirety of the script, reading the dialogue lethargically. Susan Egan is great as usual but it seems like she's the only one trying in the dubbed but the subtitled version is definitely more recommended here. There also seems to be messing with dialogue which changes characters' intentions and their back stories which is unusual for dubbing, it makes the film come across much worse so definitely check out the subtitled version instead. 

Porco is a bounty hunter pilot who is trying to make a living alone to keep himself in the air as much as possible. He's also a cursed man who's doomed to look like a pig but a lot of the time refuses to ever sink to his animal's looks. Around the Adriatic sea, he defends ships from pirates while earning himself a fee - sometimes keeping a bit too much of what he recovers. There are many beautiful moments in it, it oddly plays out much more lucidly than some of Miyazaki's other work - even though it's about a pig-man. Thematically it seems a bit more bare than Miyazaki's other work, perhaps because its narrative is more of a concrete construction; there are moments of thematic beauty that come from questions of death alongside the typical innocence of children but it feels fewer than his other work. 

Beyond Ghibli's impressive catalogue of work, this falls more into the average side of their output because of its odd disapproval of women in it. Intentional or not, it feels more uncomfortable, rarely proving that is an actual statement on views on women rather than their views on women. It seems to think it makes it acceptable for the comments to be made by making the woman not that bad at engineering actually, impressing the misogynistic pirates with her engineering work. The other female character, Gina, is as well passed off as a woman who could have any man and thus requires one, whether it Curtiss or Porco. Fio is rarely a woman of herself either by admitting that her gender is a problem, especially for her career aspirations, being proposed to straight away by Curtiss like some sort of arrangement. Miyazaki can make any visual beautiful, creating depths in the air and the sea, providing some detailed, beautiful visuals alongside a bizarrely entertaining yet more blunt narrative. Its potential sexism and views on women - good intentions or not - sours the entire experience of a film stunningly drawn and with some interesting takes on religion, life, death and innocence.