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Porco Rosso: Pig Or Prince?

By Karel Segers

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The greatest Japanese director who ever lived may be Kurasawa, but in my books the greatest alive is Hayao Miyazaki. Creator of masterpieces such as MY NEIGHBOUR TOTORO, SPIRITED AWAY, GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES and HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE, he announced his retirement for the sixth time at the end of 2013. This time around it seems the 72-year old was serious. Within the year, his Studio Ghibli announced a major downsizing, effectively closing down Japan’s most successful animation studio.

Most of Miyazaki’s films have won major prizes at festivals worldwide, and since the phenomenally successful SPIRITED AWAY - $275m worldwide - all of his films have had wide international theatrical releases, which is exceptional for Japanese cinema. When Miyazaki announced his retirement, I went through a Studio Ghibli marathon with my son, who was 9 at the time. During HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE, he exclaimed “This is the best movie I’ve ever seen!”

PIXAR PRAISE

Miyazaki’s films impress with their freshness and depth. They sparkle with originality like fairytales, yet they feel strangely familiar, as if you had known them from your childhood. In SPIRITED AWAY, a girl sees her parents transformed into pigs when the family is trapped in a mysterious world with ghosts, witches and monsters. The young woman in HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE falls under a curse that gives her an old body, and a handsome wizard in a flying castle must help her. PONYO tells the story of a young boy who falls for a fish with a human face, an omen that predicts a tsunami...

No wonder the Pixar Braintrust are huge fans of Miyazaki. When SPIRITED AWAY was released in North America in 2003, John Lasseter personally escorted Miyazaki around the country to support it, and as a thank you, Studio Ghibli sent him a 155mins video letter titled “Lasseter San, Arigato” (Thank you, Mr Lasseter).

PORCINE PILOT

On IMDb, PORCO ROSSO ranks on par with FROZEN (user rating 7.8), which is lower than some of Miyazaki’s best known films. Still, PORCO is my personal favourite. The porcine pilot from the title is a WW1 veteran who lives as a reclusive bounty hunter on a secluded beach. Can you see the ‘isolated’ theme here? If he is not fighting pirates, he is fending off his American arch nemesis Curtis, whose inflated ego sits at the exact opposite end of the scale from Porco. In the middle stands Gina, a restaurant owner who keeps her heart for Porco; she awaits the moment when he will be ready for her. The young girl who facilitates his transformation is Fio, granddaughter of Piccolo the plane repair man, and a fine engineer herself.

PORCO’S FLASHBACK MONOLOGUE

At the story’s Ordeal, at the end of Act Two, Porco tells a story to Fio. We learn about his wound, how he lost his best friend… and how he became a pig. The scene reminds thematically of another classic war monologue: Robert Shaw’s US Indianapolis scene from JAWS, as both are stories about survivor guilt. You may also find Robert Shaw’s character of Quint just as eccentric and intriguing as Porco Rosso. An important difference, however, is that during Porco’s monologue we flash back to join in a WW1 dogfight. What follows seems at first mysterious and beautiful… but when we know what we are looking at, it becomes an intensely moving cinematic moment.

 

About Karel Segers

Karel Segers wrote his first produced screenplay at age 17. Today he is a story analyst, script editor and producer with experience in rights acquisition, script development and production. His screenwriting classes have trained writers in Australia, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and his clients include international award-winning filmmakers as well as three Academy Award nominees. Karel is the founder of The Story Department and Logline.it!, and he ranks in the world's Top 10 of most influential people for screenwriting on Twitter.

 

Screenwriting Article by Karel Segers

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