The “Porco Rosso” Conundrum

Porco Rosso is a 1991 Studio Ghibli film directed by Hayao Miyazaki. The film follows the adventures of a ex-WWI fighter pilot, Marco Pagot, wandering the Adriatic Seas in the 1930s, living in his past shadow as something of a drifter. To make matters worse, Marco is an anthropomorphic pig. A contemplative and oftentimes moody film, it still has plenty of fun and slapstick humor to combat Marco’s nostalgia.

porco ghib
An image from “Porco Rosso,” showing Marco enjoying a drink overlookingthe Adriatic Sea.

To be completely honest, I do not “get” this film. The tone feels jarring and inconsistent at times, leaving me guessing the film’s direction. For example, the movie ends with Porco having a slapstick-style fistfight with a fellow pilot in front of a cheering crowd after an entire film about living through nostalgic eyes of past glories and Marco helping build a plane for a local community in Italy. It does not come together for me.

What am I missing? Why does Porco Rosso continue to elude me? I have read many “Top Ten Ghibli” film lists, and Porco Rosso is on most. I did not include it in my top ten, but why do others rate it so high? It is one of those films that I cannot fully appreciate because of its context (1930s-era Italy), or is it something else? Why is the main character a talking pig? I often feel I understand Ghibli films so well, but then Porco Rosso comes along.

Maybe with repeated viewings of this film I will fully grasp the concept. Maybe I will understand why the climatic first fight is so important. Until then, I am here, left to wonder:

Porco, Porco, what to do?

The snout-nosed pilot who only flew.

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