This one I understand. It's a "film like that". If you’ve ever looked up from Casablanca or The Quiet Man and said “they don’t make films like that anymore”, you will love Porco Rosso. It is, beautifully, a Film Like That. In an interview, Miyazaki said he felt guilty for indulging himself with this movie, being a story about his two great loves, Europe and flying. I say, if he had this movie in him and didn’t get it out, that would have been something to feel guilty about.
This is one of Miyazaki’s untranslated films, meaning it’s only available in Japanese with subtitles – bless region-zero DVDs – but if Disney (which has American rights) has a brain, they’ll release this one in English soon. This, I predict, will be a breakthrough film for the American market. (I mean, Kiki, Mononoke and Spirited Away all did well enough, but given their phenomenal success in Japan, a modest American art-house run seems like underperforming. Porco Rosso was the highest-grossing film in Japan until the release of Mononoke, which in turn held the record until the Japanese release of Titanic, which in turn held the record until the release of Spirited Away. I detect a trend.) It immediately precedes Mononoke, so Mikazaki’s mastery of the medium evident in that film and Spirited Away is present here as well.
It’s set in Italy and the Adriatic Sea in the years between the World Wars. Marco Pigotti was an aviator in the war, whose best friend (who married the girl Marco loved) died in a battle that claimed Marco’s entire unit except for himself. Disgusted, defeated and disillusioned, he became a recluse, living in a hut on a secluded island with only his red seaplane for company – until the coming of a young hotshot in an American plane awakens a spirit of competition he’d thought long gone.
Right. And Casablanca is about a saloon in Morocco.
Oh, have I mentioned that when he “quit the human race” after the war, he did so literally and turned into a bipedal, talking pig?
Well, don’t worry about that. After a few minutes you’ll forget he’s a pig, really. It’s just a metaphor.