Movies We Like
I have been an avid Miyazaki fan since the Hong Kong Film Festival of 1984, when I saw Nausicaä and Castle in The Sky. I think Miyazaki-san did his greatest work in the 90s, before Spirited Away brought him fame and fortune in Hollywood. And of his 1990s films, there is none more mature, moving, and masterful as Porco Rosso, the story of World War I flying ace Marco Porcellino, whose disillusionment with the rise of fascism made him choose to become a pig.
In abandoning the world, Marco also left behind people who loved him, especially the beautiful Gina, widow of his wartime comrade and owner of the best club in the Adriatics, where bounty hunters and air pirates alike leave their guns (and troubles) behind.
This is Miyazaki's most romantic film, and could easily have been done with live actors. But with his usual zeal and fanaticism for every authentic detail, Miyazaki has created out of manga (cartoon) a completely believable world, much as Hitchcock had in The Birds with matte painting. The seaplanes and their dogfights will overwhelm you with their realism, and Marco's engine actually bears the brandname Ghibli in reference to Miyazaki's movie studio, just as Grandfather Piccolo who owns the plane factory bears an unmistakable resemblance to Miyazaki-san himself.
The score from Joe Hisaishi is sometimes very beautiful, such as the tango that accompanies Marco's ascent into the clouds on his way to Milan. Gina's song, "le temp des cherises," was actually the rallying cry of the French communists in the 30s. The dubbing by Disney Studio is magnificent, offering a difficult choice of Michael Keaton as an English-speaking Marco or Jean Reno as a French-speaking one. Both are bravura performances, as is everything else about this "cartoon for adults."