Reviews of “The Porco Rosso Memos: Directorial Memoranda” (1991) and related work

“The Porco Rosso Memos: Directorial Memoranda” (1991Text)

Miyazaki Hayao (writer).

Read in Starting Point.

One common mistake—the belief that to draw a cartoon is to draw someone sillier than oneself—must be avoided at all costs. Otherwise, we won’t be able to attract the oxygen-deprived middle-aged men we are targeting.

Very funny.

References here: Starting Point: 1979–1996 (1996/2009).

text non-fiction Japanese production

Porco Rosso (1992Moving picture, 94 minutes)

Suzuki Toshio (producer), Miyazaki Hayao (writer-director).

Fascists strive for power around the Adriatic as the Great Depression grips the world. A seaplane pilot who guiltily survived WW1 keeps the regional air pirates at bay and afloat until he runs into a gallant and ruthless American.

An intensely nostalgic European aerial combat adventure with an element of Buddhist fable, in that the main character was reincarnated as a pig without really dying (transcarnated?), and everyone notices this, but nobody minds. Compare the minor character Michele in Two Women (1960), an Italian who has retreated to the countryside and eats well during WW2. Michele exclaims “We’re pigs! Admit it, we’re pigs.” Compare also Miyazaki’s “Princess Mononoke: The First Story” (1980), where a young man preoccupied by selfish pleasures similarly changes into an animal—in the style of Ovid’s metamorphoses—and then gets a chance to redeem himself.

The multilingual opening recalls McLaren’s “Boogie-Doodle” (1948). Some names are recycled from 3000 Leagues in Search of Mother (1976) and the sign held up by the team of teratomorphs in the closing credits also alludes to that earlier project (“3000½”).

Miyazaki wrote the earlier brief comic. This was his greatest ego trip at the time: WW1-era flying machines hooked up to transcendence as in “Against the Lafayette Escadrille” (1972); slapstick action with lots of honour and sympathy; a pig in the title role; and shallow romance. The preschool girls kidnapped in the opening are even more joyful than the slightly older girls from St. Christopher’s in The Lavender Hill Mob (1951). The long scenes in Piccolo’s workshop talking about monocoques bring a wonderful gravity to the flight scenes, though the film never quite explains the extent to which WW1-era wood-frame fighters were held together by taut internal steel wires. The whole film is full of the “joy of animation”, but the tonal control is precarious. Miyazaki initially wanted to keep it very light but then tried to inject a bit more seriousness on account of the war in former Yugoslavia. The result is vaguely disjointed misandry, ephebophilia and casual violence on a weak narrative frame. Enjoy the great details and ignore the rest.

References here: Ghibli movie titles, “Sometimes We Need Stories About the Old Days” (1992), Il Postino: The Postman (1994), “Från läppar till fjärilar” (2000), “The Heart That Accepts a ‘Lonely Man’” (2001), The Wind Rises (2013), Mary and the Witch’s Flower (2017), Ruben Brandt, Collector (2018).

moving picture implementation Ghibli Japanese production animation fiction

‣‣ “An Interview Just Prior to the Release of Porco Rosso” (1992Text)

Miyazaki Hayao (interviewee).

Read in Starting Point.

It’d be pretty tough to live the way characters in the film do. The staff members who worked on Porco Rosso had to burn the midnight oil all the time, and some didn’t even get to rest on Sunday. There are a lot of reasons for this, of course, and it’s an area where I need to make improvements, but I personally enjoy it when I am so absorbed in something that I completely forget about myself.

Oddly focused on atopic eczema as one dark sign of the times. This motif would recur in Miyazaki’s writings throughout the 1990s; there must have been a big scare about it.

References here: Starting Point: 1979–1996 (1996/2009).

text document non-fiction Japanese production