17/11/2017

Ety Hitsan - Eritrean Cinema?

Thoughts On: Ety Hitsan (The Child, 2016)


Made by Nahom Abraham, this is the Eritrean film of the series.


Whilst African cinema is often completely overlooked by self-proclaiming cinefiles, film lovers, etc, there are numerous prolific industries and significant filmmakers that come from the continent. The complication that comes with African cinema is, of course, Africa's history as a continent divided and shaped by colonialism. Without taking a deep dive into this huge subject, it has taken quite a long time for cinemas to begin flourishing throughout Africa. In Northern, Arab countries, national film history is often quite long and dense. Across the rest of the continent, there are a plethora of examples of filmmaking dating back to the 30s and earlier. However, to suggest this kind of filmmaking was apart of an industry of production would be very naive. Not until Africa began to gain its independence around the mid-20th century did films made by Africans begin to emerge in greater, more consistent numbers and did industries start to form.

One of he most famous national African cinemas would be that of Nigeria: Nollywood. Expanding upon this, one of the most prolific and prestigious regions of film production would be West Africa in general. It is then countries such as Senegal, Nigeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, etc that come to represent African cinema to many people with North African filmmaking sometimes being clumped in with Middle Eastern filmmaking and the rest of Africa being overshadowed by the West. This is most true with East Africa as Southern and Central African cinemas have gained much notoriety over the past few decades.

East African cinema is largely represented by Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda - which we will no doubt come across in the world cinema series. But, when we come to our country for today, Eritrea, one of the Eastern-most countries on the coast, there is almost no formal representation of its film production. If you then Google "Eritrean cinema", "Eritrean film", "Eritrean movie", etc, you will find - outside of an empty Wikipedia page - absolutely no articles, papers, blog posts, question pages about filmmaking or an industry. The paradox of this, however, is that you will find countless pages of Eritrean films on YouTube or sites such as erivideo.com. What's more, many of these films have hundreds-of-thousands of views. So, not only is there a strong production of Eritrean cinema, but it is widely consumed.

Nonetheless, the most I could find out about Eritrean cinema is where a few of the country's cinemas actually are. There seems to be about 4 cinemas, three in Asmara and one in Keren. These are, uncoincidentally, the country's two largest cities with Asmara being the capital. Considering Eritrea's history and its colonial possession by Italy, we can infer that these cinemas were founded by and for Italian settlers. And this is, in fact, certainly true of at least one of the cinemas: Impero, founded in 1937 by the colonial authorities. What this suggests about filmmaking in Eritrea is minimal, however, it does imply that the many movies constantly being produced go straight to T.V, home video/DVD or the internet. This would mimic the manner in which the Nigerian film industry functions with movies being produced as quickly as possible, often with shoe string budgets, and then thrown onto local markets as soon as can be managed before the pirating system sweeps away all film profits.

However, without being able to collect any substantial information about Eritrean filmmaking, we'll have to stop this inference short and conclude by just consuming Eritean cinema as it presents itself with our selection today and a short review.

Ety Hitsan, or The Child, is a movie with a clear amateur aesthetic, but a surprisingly affecting story. This is a melodrama of sorts that has elements of the crime thriller that, to a degree, ground its narrative in more realist emotions and conflicts. In such, this follows a man whose family life is shaken to its core when his maid falls pregnant and claims that the child is his. His wife, son and friends are all pulled into his personal maelstrom as he not only faces the possibility of losing all he has, but also coming to harm at the hands of a man who stalks him.

The structure of Ety Hitsan masks answers and incites questions at a brisk pace whilst the cinematic language remains distantly elusive or intimately contemplative so that there is a strong relationship between plot and character. This then builds a narrative around, presumably, local social topics concerning adultery - which is illegal, and punishable with a fine or a 1-6 month prison sentence in Eritrea - and fertility.

Competently constructed and quite articulate, Ety Hitsan, if you have come this far in the post, is certainly worth giving a go. But, before I provide links to see this film, what are our thoughts on today's subject matter? And do you know anything about Eritrean cinema? Here are links to part 1 and part 2, or you can watch the film here...



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Sidewalls - Romantic Tension

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16/11/2017

Sidewalls - Romantic Tension

Thoughts On: Sidewalls (Medianeras, 2011)

Two lost romantics wander though their lives and city in seeming search of one another.


Sidewalls is a slightly cheesy and very predictable romance, but, I have to say I loved it. He is a recluse and a geek confined to his apartment. She is a quirky aspiring architect who can't be in elevators. They are both single, in search of love and lost in a haphazardly developed city and in an overwhelming digital age.

These are very common romantic tropes that we would have all come into contact with many times before. For example, this bears a tone and aesthetic very reminiscent 500 Days Of Summer. However, the key spark of near-originality that Sidewalls has going for it is its context - this is set in Buenos Aires - and its structure - this is less a romance and more a clumsy adventure that preempts a romance.

It is the manner in which the setting of this narrative interacts with this structure that then makes this so endearing - even ingenious at points. Like many romances, Sidewalls is a study of chance and destiny. However, this is consciously recognised throughout, and so there forms a game between audience and filmmaker under a question of: When will they meet? This is key to all romances; the audience is allowed to know or recognise something that the characters can't or won't. In It Happened One Night, for example, we all know that Peter and Ellie are perfect for one another in spite of their antagonistic relationship. It is this reflexivity and the embrace of contrivance that makes romances work; we know how things are going to end, we just want to enjoy the journey to that point.

To make this journey towards a predictable end interesting, many filmmakers have him and her meet, but then break up before, in the finale, coming back together at a train station or an airport. Bridging towards the melodrama, this finale may even occur at a wedding in which a love triangle is broken down as we would like it to be.

We are all very aware of these paradigms of the traditional romance, and I have to admit that I struggle to complain about a romance done well. What makes Sidewalls so interesting, however, is that it takes away romantic frustration and instead builds romantic tension. In such, there is no break up in this film. What this emphasises - much like Amélie does - is the relationship between hope, despair and fate in romances.

Fate hangs over all traditional romances: we know how things are going to end. However, within the narrative, there often isn't a sense of fate, instead a hope for a happy ending that is projected through the characters who want to find Mr. or Mrs. Right. A tension is drawn out of this as the characters also project despair. And so the joy of watching traditional romances like Sidewalls is being able to indulge giddy feelings of hope, melancholic sensations of despair, and all whilst knowing that everything will come to a satisfying end.

The traditional romance, seen in such a light, is then a form of cinema that most purely captivates the idea that cinema is a form of simulation. The space we step into with movies like Sidewalls is an inconsequential one in which existentially crushing themes are raised, only so they can be put to rest within an hour or so. We may then ask: What is the point of this kind of romance? Why pose questions and conflicts that are only going to be solved for an audience member?

In asking this question, we can stumble upon the more sinister side of romances that many pick up on as capitalist, normative propaganda. Romances, whilst they don't always provide open ends, do hold up a mirror to our lives and, in a way, project anxiety through us and have us question: Why haven't I found Mr. or Mrs. Right; why aren't I living happily ever after?

As mentioned, many look upon this a problematic and damaging as romances project false expectations of love. I personally could agree with this - but only if every single romance ever made followed a predictable structure towards a happy ending. However, there are, of course, films such as Blue Valentine that show the darker side of romance; films such as Roman Holiday that don't provide true catharsis despite their romanticism; or films such as Don Jon that provide reality checks and comment on the contrivance of the traditional romance. What we see all of these films doing is challenging the form of romantic films as to challenge their audience. And, in more general terms, this is what a vast majority of realist or art house cinema attempts to do: not provide the sensational.

However, seeing these two forms of cinema - the realist, art house and the blockbuster/genre film - as being in a relationship, reveals the virtues of the 'problematic' romance. By showing life in a romantic light and emphasising the ideal, traditional romances challenge their audience by showing them their dreams. To suggest that this contrived cinema is problematic because of this suggests that having dreams is, in a way, a problem. Of course, critics of such an idea would suggest that it is not the presence of the dream, but the construction and propagation of specific drams that make the traditional romance problematic. But, being the average Joe that studios make these movies for, I fail to find malice in this. Maybe this is because I'm a zombie and cog in the capitalist system. To whatever degree this is true, I'd also emphasise the idea that there is a relationship in the romantic genre between the likes of Sidewalls and Blue Valentine. Because of this, we can accept the challenge that the traditional, indirectly demoralising romance poses as well as that which the realist, directly demoralising romance does.

There is a larger paradigm at play in which we see contrived cinema battle against realist cinema; the genre film do battle against alternative cinema. And whilst it seems that more contrived cinema exists than realist cinema, if we consider the entirety of film history and the scope of world cinema, it is hard to complain about the composition of our cinematic diet; if you feel like you're lacking some dark drama, go find some - there's more out there than you could see in a life time. In contrast to this, if you feel like you want to see a good traditional romance, here's one at your finger tips. Go see Sidewalls.







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The Seashell And The Clergyman - Cinema As An Ideology

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15/11/2017

The Seashell And The Clergyman - Cinema As An Ideology

Thoughts On: The Seashell And The Clergyman (1928)

Today we won't be talking too much about Dulac's masterpiece, rather how ideology does/does not affect how we could interact with it.


Cinema has always been a very personal concept and practice for me. Whilst there is much to be said out loud about cinema, just as there is much to be said aloud about ourselves as individuals, films have an ability to work inside of the frameworks of our personality to produce a wonder of sensations that cannot necessarily be articulated - and nor would we necessarily want to broadcast them. This, as we will explore, speaks of a wider paradigm of existential and cultural being; of ideology. (Let it be noted that, throughout, we will be referring to "ideology" as meaning a set of ideas that can be, but aren't always, linked to politics).

We all live our lives from moment-to-moment and from day-to-day in transitory consciousness, between being as aware as can be of our actions and our projected persona and being entirely ignorant to all that we are and appear to be. This means that we may spend a significant portion of our day acting out some kind of ideology; we may try to live our lives as a good conservative, liberal, male, female, heterosexual, homosexual, Christian, Muslim, Westerner, Easterner, German, Egyptian, etc. However, all of these labels merely signify the fracturing of the individual. After all, whilst the portion of our day that we try to spend as a good *insert label* may be seen as significant, it is often overshadowed by a lack of consciousness in the remainder of the day, leaving ideological structures to fall to the wayside whist an abstract idea of individual identity holds strong. We may, however, counter-argue that we almost always act as a good, for example, Muslim and/or wife, subconsciously through routine. But, to what degree can we consider this subconscious being to be just apart of our self? And, by extension of this, to what degree is a self ideological?

Ideology is, in essence, structure. Structure is important and, moreover, humanity's only tool to confront life - which is often unpredictable and chaotic without some systematic regime or structure mapped over it. However, there is a sense of inherency about ideologies; they not only voice intrinsic human traits, but they are often acted out unconsciously. Thus, the structure that ideologies seemingly represent stems from either a collective unconscious or an individual unconscious. This suggests that ideologies naturally form and are consequentially not as important as the individual. I suggests this on the grounds that being a good male, female, son, daughter, Hindu, Buddhist, Marxist, Darwinist, teacher or construction worker has less to do with a structure of thinking and more to do with the motivation for thinking. Whilst we may think ourselves into existence as Descarte may suggest with the idea of "I think, therefore I am", we are before we exist; we, as humans, merely define ourselves by being able to recognise ourselves in the mirror; by being able to think and see ourselves as existing. We can then think of The Planet Of The Apes and recognise that, before Caesar was born, such a thing as apes existed, but didn't necessarily exist as a structure and concept born of apes; this had to wait until the apes rose into consciousness for that to be true.

To map this back on to our discussion of ideology and living one's life, we can see that there is an undeniable relationship between being human and being a specific kind of human as informed by ideological structures; we cannot call ourselves a human, just like we cannot call ourselves a, for example, feminist, without some kind of ideological structure after all. Ideological structures only seem to function, however, if they are bound to individuals. To reference, again, The Planet Of The Apes, the ideas and rules of being an ape - and a good ape - can and should be defined in writing, but a society can only progresses (and so continue to exist without destroying itself or being destroyed) when those rules are questioned, tested and challenged. If there is no questioning of an ideological structure, it will become a form of tyranny or poison. After all, those who function under an ideology are as simple as the ideology wants them to be; whilst all apes can be called apes, not all apes will be good apes or will deserve the title of 'ape'. Thus, ideologies need to monitor themselves and be perceived as below the individual.

The idea of self-monitoring manifests itself in politics through the conceptual left and right. The left and right, in my eyes, are characterised mainly by distrust and trust. I partially subscribe to the idea that political affiliation is a result of ones own complex personality and temperament, but, there is a superstructure that can be perceived to be looming over such an idea. All actions can be characterised as distrusting or trusting; a red light and a green light; stop, go; yes, no. These connotations describe the way in which governmental structures function; right-wingers don't seem to trust people as much as left-wingers. It is then important that no system fall into the hands of a far and complete left or right; we cannot be too naively trusting and nor can we be too scrupulously distrustful otherwise fascist or anarchist dictatorial states will rise and, presumably, destroy themselves.

I bring up this idea of self-monitoring between the left and the right - which will always be in conflict so there is, hopefully, some sense of democracy and balance - as we can understand this concept to map onto an idea that an ideology has to be flexible. And the greater reason for this is because people aren't simple. Just as the universe is unpredictable, so is humanity. In my understanding, it is then best to accept, to as great a degree as possible, that groups of humans are made up of individuals and then treat them with a respective balance between trust and distrust; we have to assume they are good, whilst keeping in mind that everyone has a capacity for evil. This is why any kind of revolution is questionable to me; when things work, we should be very careful about changing them. After all, changing things for the better is so many more times harder than changing things for the good. And so, to enforce change through ideology, especially one that has not been tested, is a dangerous game in my view. Ideology should not be put upon pre-existing structures, but should be allowed to flourish through existing ones.

The quanta of all of these assertions is the individual. Ideology - structure - should be the voice of a group of individuals; individuals should not be the voice of structure. And, to a great degree, the individual does not need to speak of the ideology for this reason. To expand, understanding what a structure is is incredibly important, but no one should rationally consider themselves a blank-ist - at least, not without the understanding, and not outside of a context which understands, that people are not only a vast selection of blank-ists, but are more so an individual who exists with elements that they won't, and needn't, think of in terms of any ideological structure.

This is where we come closer an closet to the concept of an individual. When we talk to our loved ones, are we capitalists? When we go to work, are we materialists? When we play an instrument, are we Christians? When we watch movies, are we feminists?

It is certainly true that we can do all of these things as the described blank-ist, but, to speak in broad, universal terms, there is no totality of blank-ism. In other words, no, everything is not political; everything is not a feminist issue; everything is not a problem for Hindus to confront, etc. The mere suggestion that all of these various isms can be seen to be 'everything' at once nullifies the claim by itself. Structure is mapped onto life, life is not structure. Equally so, we exists before we are, but we simultaneously think ourselves into being.

All we have discussed so far is not to say that we should welcome, or are even in, a post-ideological age; an age without structure and labels. To suggests such nonsense is to misunderstand that ideology is merely structure and that we can always try and map structure onto life - at least, until we stop existing that is. There nonetheless exists this issue of ideology being lesser than the individual - both as a consequence of it proceeding the individual and not being as complex as the individual can be. After all, the individual is post-ideological in a sense because we often all accept that there is more to ourselves and more to the universe that we know - and probably ever can know. In such a case, no ideology will ever truly serve its purpose; it will never be complex or competent enough as there are always more problems that it will have to conceive of. The only way ideologies then survive is by virtue of the complex individuals controlling them; those who act as windows into a deeper, abstract sense of humanity that pre-exists, overshadows, supersedes, yet also necessitates, ideology. Ideology is just the unfortunate and lacking materialisation of this greater truth that we can tap into through conscious being and taking in information.

To make a slight side-note, this is where postmodernist thinking becomes somewhat valid for a brief moment. Postmodernism largely stems from the attempted creation of A.I. In trying to create artificial intelligence, theorists and scientists quickly realised that the world is too complex and full of too many stimuli to create a computer programme (which is analogous to an ideology or structure) that could make an A.I operational. This implied to certain theorists that all truth and facts are relative; there is no absolute truth because there are too many things to be interpreted in life; there are too many possibilities and frameworks.

However, A.I isn't - seemingly - an impossibility. And this is what disproves postmodern ideology. If/when we find a way to recreate autonomous intelligence, it would be able to improve upon itself and thus grow to have, at least, as much potential as the world around it does - just like humans. After all we are, potentially, just as complicated and unfathomable as the universe itself, and A.I could increase the intensity of that potential. This suggests that, by creating frameworks that imply truths that fit in a hierarchy - some truths that are better than other truths, not just relative and equal to them - intelligent bodies can, potentially, find transcendence and ultimate truth. And this is all because they are an individual who is beyond ideology, who uses ideology like an ape does a rock; whilst the rock will allow an ape to eat certain nuts, the rock doesn't give them life - rocks needn't become their gods.

As a result, it seems that the individual life force - that which provides potential - is everything. However, the individual will inevitably form some framework; consider this essay for example: I am, in a way, arguing against structure and ideology by creating one. It must be said, however, that a framework will never fully define an individual, and thus we have to return to the individual life force - the abstract and latent crux of humanity and the individual - to think of ourselves and others in true terms.

Understanding this relationship between ideology and individuality, the key question of this essay can then be brought to the fore: how should we watch films? Whilst there are many that see all film as, for example, political, anyone who fully subscribes to such an idea is, in my honest opinion, a degenerate. Whilst these degenerates will provide much to cinema by introducing frameworks of thinking, they are only worth so much. Jean-Luc Godard is one of the best examples of this. He broke rules of cinema and constantly, to this day, proposes questions of how cinema should function and how we should consume it. However, everything that Godard does bears so few fruits in my view; he provides techniques, ideas, styles and modes of thinking, but never great art. We could also look to the likes of Vertov and Eisenstein here. In the present day, most will strip their films of their politics and consider them art before all else - which says a lot about the relationship between individuality and ideology in their films.

The main example that we will use to discuss this tension between ideology and individuality in the cinema - and you may have seen this coming if you have read my post on Cinema As A Religion - is Germaine Dulac's The Seashell and the Clergyman.

The Seashell and the Clergyman is one of the most hypnotic and true depictions of the imagination and subconscious through film that I have ever come into contact with. Generally considered the first surrealist film, pre-dating Un Chien Andalou by around a year, Dulac would have denied the idea that this was a film about dreams (which it was advertised as). This mutes the surrealist elements of this film slightly, but there is nonetheless an undeniable abstract and impressionistic quality to this narrative that leaves it cerebral and psychologically centred. So, though a dream isn't presented by The Seashell and the Clergyman, there is a clear presence of the subconscious - which is a defining aspect of surrealism.

The film itself never establishes a reality or realistic setting, and so we can imagine we are immediately immersed into a psychological space of the clergyman, who we see idling away at some kind of potion that he drops into a pile of broken glass. An army general enters his room and is effected by the pointless waste. However, following the general out of this space, the clergyman happens upon his wife, who he lusts after. And the rest of the film sees him pursue her and conjure imaginings within imaginings of his own island and home.

Dulac herself was a feminist and would have written for a radical feminist magazine before writing about and making films. This background bled into her work and approach to cinema, and thus it is easy to see The Seashell and the Clergyman as a critique of domineering patriarchal forces, the male gaze and the puerile, fetishistic imagination of a man whose projected persona is supposedly pious.

When I first saw The Seashell and the Clergyman, none of this occurred to me as I wasn't aware of Dulac's background or the film's reception. I nonetheless found this film to be a wondrous experiment of surrealism and a highly affecting, even profound, experience. So, having read about the film and Dulac, and the having re-watched the film, I can see its intent, but this doesn't impact the film I thought I saw very much. In my view, The Seashell and the Clergyman depicts irrationality and a dire frustration within oneself. This is of course predicated on male-female relationships, and so a feminist perspective is inevitably going to be on the periphery, but, there is little of worth I can see coming from this ideological framework being imposed upon the film. In such, we should ask: what worth is drawn from criticising a constructed male's imagination; he's supposedly thinking about the wrong things and this is supposed to be a source of feminist critique? It is one thing to suggest that the clergyman's perception of females is faulted, but, stepping into an abstract, surreal space to imply the functioning of a man's subconscious is faulted is weak; the subconscious is far more complex than basic morality will allow you to grasp.

It was assuming this and mapping the structures of surrealism onto The Seashell and the Clergyman that I would make sense of this narrative as a fantasy, one that emphasises how desperate and restricted the clergyman is. As a surreal short, this would then have strong links to the fantasy scenes of 8 1/2 in which Guido has countless concubines and female slaves crawling at his feet. Whilst it is easy to see misogyny in these scenes, they serve a greater purpose of commenting on Guido's upbringing, his mother and his hedonism as a coping mechanism. And in seeing the clergyman as we may see Guido, he actually becomes a rounded character, not simple caricature. And it's for this very reason that The Seashell and the Clergyman remains such a poignant film to me; it speaks more of character and less about ideology; it is about an individual and so appeals to an individual.

What we begin to see emerge here is a core idea of how we watch films. As you will see at the top of this blog, to me, if a film affects you, it must mean something; from some kind of sensory or emotional evocation comes greater meaning. As a result, all great films are enjoyable in some respect: they affect you. This doesn't mean that all films should be easily consumed. On the contrary, challenging films that manage to communicate something of depth by virtue of their formal and narrative complications are often genuine masterpieces. And so what defines our favourite films, and the films we see to be the greatest of all time, is ourselves and our own individual relationship with movies.

So, to come back to the top of this essay: cinema is an incredibly personal practice and concept. Films that hold an ability to enter your being and rattle our senses work on incredibly fundamental levels that are transcendent of ideology. Ideologies can then be present in films and used to understand the voice of the filmmaker - they can even be used to re-frame a film for the sake of critique. However, genuine cinema, in my view, has its own ideology. With cinema as your ideology, you accept the structures of the art - one of moving images that allow the production of semiosis and emotional meaning. By extension of this, you have to confront it as an individual before mapping onto it separate ideologies, conventions or structure. Cinema must be experienced as a latent form before we give it structure. And even when we do this, ideological structures must stem from films themselves, as we recognise them as products of an individual artist(s) who is embedded in a specific culture and time that is further contextualise by the greater scope of humanity. However, the nuances and influences of a film can never be all that a film is; for a film to truly be, it must resonate with the individual beyond tangible structure. Great cinema is, after all, transcendent of all that isn't cinema; its individuality makes it pure and stepping into this realm, we will possibly find the greatest concepts that cinema can offer.






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14/11/2017

A Screaming Man - Liquid Body

Quick Thoughts: A Screaming Man (Un Homme Qui Crie, 2010)

An ageing man's job falls into jeopardy under new hotel management.


A Screaming Man is an incredibly subtle film about fatherhood. Without any melodrama, and by perceiving conflict from distances that ensure character, never spectacle, are the focus, this then sees an ex-champion swimmer confront the possibility of his son taking over his position at the local hotel pool whilst rebellion and war spark in the far-off periphery.

Following a similar structure to that of Abouna (Our Father), Haroun weaves through themes of familial separation and existential, religious doubt. This movement between themes is encompassed by a larger motif of water. At many levels of our main character's life and consciousness, water is incredibly important. As mentioned, he is an ex-swimmer and works at a pool - a job he retains with pride and sees as his life. Water is then implied to be apart of his past as he struggles to keep it in his present alongside his son. In the abstract superstructure of this narrative, water seems to represent life in a literal and transcendental manner. As religious themes then come into play, water becomes a body of life and a symbol for nature as a force of existence that our main characters grows to have a complicated and emotionally provocative relationship with.

Without wanting to delve into any serious plot details, I have to recommend A Screaming Man as a subdued realist drama about wanting to cry out to patriarchal figures (literal fathers and an abstract god), but simultaneously being unable to find a means for catharsis.






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Porco Rosso - Quintessential Ghibli

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13/11/2017

Porco Rosso - Quintessential Ghibli

Quick Thoughts: Porco Rosso (Kurenai no Buta, 1992)


A great air-force pilot turned pig-mercenary has numerous run-ins with pirates.


Intensely brilliant, Porco Rosso is way up there as one of my absolute favourite Ghibli films. However, to a degree, Porco Rosso is a somewhat unremarkable Ghibli feature. With the previous Ghibli films, the common tropes of the studio were firmly established; with Castle In The Sky we see the fascination with aviation and European settings; Grave Of The Fireflies emphasises the importance of history in the Ghibli film; My Neighbour Totoro captures strong and rounded female characters; Kiki's Delivery Service contains strong magic/fantasy-realism; and Only Yesterday features much of the above with standard masterful animation.

Porco Rosso has all of these tropes integrated into its narrative beautifully. Aviation is, of course, a particular focus that we see explored with surprising detail. Added to this, we have one of the most obvious and direct references to history and culture through the depiction of the Mediterranean alongside consistent allusions to fascism and WWI. Guiding us through this narrative is also one of the most compelling Ghibli characters, Fio, who sparks an impossibly rich and touching relationship with all of those around her, allowing Miyazaki to depict rounded male and female characters of various generations alongside, and in support of, one another. Overlaying characterisation is also an ambiguous mythos mixing in with realism that will be revived without much modification for Howl's Moving Castle; we are of course referencing the curse and Porco's internal conflicts manifesting themselves through his transformation here. This leaves Porco Rosso - much like Howl's Moving Castle, Grave Of The Fireflies, Only Yesterday, Spirited Away, Kiki's Delivery Service, etc. - as a film about confronting inner-demons, self-doubt and self-critique by constructing a network of friends and family. And holding this entire story together is some of the most stunning animation of action I have ever seen. Projecting movement with weight, dynamism and fluidity, Porco Rosso has an incredible sense of motion and mobility - and this is in contrast to some beautifully subdued character animation that, like Only Yesterday, exudes overwhelming photogénie.

Comparison to other Ghibli films is seemingly inevitable with Poroco Rosso as it is drenched in visible tropes; added to all we've mentioned, there is a brilliant sense of comedy derived from serious subject matter as well as deep melancholy - we even have reoccurring characters in the pirates and working class women. In a way, this is then Studio Ghibli settling into their style and approach to make a film about themselves. Whilst this lessens the amount that we could talk about this film, it is hard to critique Porco Rosso; some dialogue isn't too great (I watched the English dubbed version, so keep that in mind) and sometimes the things move too fast to maintain a smooth-as-silk tone, but this is overshadowed completely by how affecting and enjoyable the narrative is.

The best and worst thing I can then say about Porco Rosso is that it is a quintessential Ghibli film. Whilst this implies that it is predictable and somewhat formulaic, if you love Studio Ghibli, there can be no complaints. To end, what are your thoughts on this film? Is there more to it that I maybe missed? How does this fare in comparison to other Ghibli films?

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End Of The Week Shorts #31.2

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