I take one more step towards completing the catalog of the greatest director the world has ever seen!
Written By: Hayao Miyazaki
Directed By: Hayao Miyazaki
Imagine Humphrey Bogart in the form of a pig flying an airplane through the skies in between the two great wars and you have Kurenai No Buta. Make no mistake about it, this is Hayao Miyazaki’s noir type film, his homage to 40’s cinema and to the characters we hold as larger than life. The actual premise was something very dear to Miyazaki, and it may not even have been his intention to make a 40’s style Bogart film, but that is what we end up with. Porco Rosso is the suave, cool character that we think of when we think of Humphrey Bogart. It may sound like overkill, but I think it’s important to make this connection for the true beauty of Kurenai No Buta to be realized by the viewer.
The next form of realization should come in the form of Donald Curtiss, the American upstart to Porco’s older and slightly humbled character. I’ve heard it argued that Curtiss is too one dimensional, but the truth is he is supposed to be one dimensional. Curtiss represents what Rosso once was and what he can be again. Rosso is a man who has given up on his own humanity and thus has also given up on his hopes, his dreams and his aspirations. Curtiss isn’t a villain, not by a long shot, Curtiss is a kick in the pants to Porco. A character who is full of himself, but full of life, still reveling in his humanity and still chasing his dreams, no matter how far fetched they may be.
The above segues into the heart of Kurenai No Buta, the idea of the changing of the times. Rosso himself represents the pre-WWII man, chivalrous, old fashioned, with a code of honor that is all his own, but beaten down by life. Curtiss represents the middle ground, the WWII era man, with a sparkle in his eyes and a gait in his step as he tries to make his own future. Lastly we have Gina and Fio, two women who represent the arrival of woman on the scene as more than just eye candy. They are fiercely independent, strong and making their own path.
In some of my reading about the film I was surprised by the anti-feminist arguments levied against Kurenai No Buta and the characters of Gina and Fio in particular. Admittedly being a humanist I’m not much in favor of the feminist movement to begin with, but any argument against this film seems to miss the true purpose of Fio and Gina. Without their actions Porco would never have been able to regain his humanity, he never would have found the good in humanity again. But, more than that, Fio and Gina represent the modern view of the picture, two modern people thinking in a broader sense dragging the men with them kicking and screaming.
The animation in Kurenai No Butan is amazing, but that should go without saying in a Hayao Miyazaki film. However, the reason I bring up the animation in Kurenai No Buta is because of the flight involved. I have often argued that Miyazaki as an animator is at his finest when dealing with characters in motion. But, he is even better when dealing with characters in flight. Kurenai No Buta gives us an entire movie of people in flight, and every frame is wonderfully and beautifully animated.
By this point it should be pretty easy for you to decipher that I loved Kurenai No Buta. I didn’t find any reservations with the film, its themes worked within one another, it had a perfect ending focusing on the men at question as opposed to the machines they operate. Kurenai No Buta is also open ended, leaving it up to the viewer to decide if Porco found his humanity again, and if that is really his red plane at the entrance to Gina’s garden in the final shot. I view Kurenai No Buta as an affirmation of the human spirit and the ultimate in cool, so of course in my view Porco regained his humanity and is in that garden with Gina. But, you don’t need me to blather on and on, it’s Miyazaki, you owe it to yourself to see Kurenai No Buta, if haven’t already done so.