Movies are a powerful medium. They are these pieces of art of a bunch of parts; sets, costumes, visual effects, actors, writers, directors, musicians, etc. They are without a doubt one of the most complete mediums, as it is basically a combination of all of them at the same time. Making movies not an easy tasks, there is no correct formula, and even the conventions that have been accepted as “The Correct Way” throughout the years don’t always work.
So, what is the secret to make a good movie? Is there one at all? The answer is complicated, but as one of the characters in Pompo The Cinephile, says it, it has a lot to do with instincts more than anything else. Pompo The Cinephile is a movie that tries to find an answer to such a question. How do we make art? And how do we make art that feels substantial and real to us as creators and for those people that are going to experience it. The movie answers these questions somewhat successfully, but there is always more room to explore in the real of dreams and madness.
Pompo The Cinephile is an anime film procured by Clap Studio and based on the manga written and illustrated by Shogo Sugitani. The film tells the story of Gene Fini, a young production assistant who loves, lives and breathes movies. His passion for the medium has taking him to work for Joelle Davidovich “Pompo” Pomponett, a young prodigy movie producer that takes her job very seriously. Pompo has a great eye for talent, and she has chosen Gene not only to be her assistant, but also to groom him into becoming a great film director.
The premise of the movie seems rather simple and dull, but in actuality the film manages to communicate many of the important things of being a creator. We could start with being confident about what you are doing. If you don’t believe in the art you are making, then why would anyone else believe also in it? This is one of the lessons Gene learns as the film progresses, and he will learn many more.
The film is essentially a very earnest and emotional trip through the filmmaking process. Which begins with the writing and preproduction of the film, then moves into actually shooting the film, and then finishes with the editing where the movie actually finds its identity and final form. It is a long process, and one that no one travels alone. So, it feels great that the movie really explains and makes it clear that filmmaking is a creative process that invites collaboration. And that even when at the end of the day most of the responsibility of a movie success or failure rests in the hands of the director, the movie was made by several people, not just one.
The movie plays at the start as a sort of slice of life as it moves between different characters and shows us how they are living their lives, and what they dream about. Later, the movie progresses into the recreation of an actual film production, and it is quite delightful to see scenes about movie making being animated with such fidelity. Clap is still a young anime studio, and yet, the quality of the work presented in Pompo The Cinephile is outstanding. The company really has a lot of room to grow, and if they keep this level of quality, they might become one of the big names in the industry.
Not everything is perfect, though. The movie is trying to present the idea that there is no right way to make a movie, it pushes, at the same time, the idea that a long movie cannot be an entertaining or masterful in any way. We know that this is a lie. Gene, the main character, discusses how much he loves long movies, as they allow him to spend more time with the characters and the setting. And yet, when making his own movie, Gene throws his own perspective to the side in order to fit the perspective of Pompo. It feels like a contradiction that the film is trying to avoid, but just crashes against it anyway.
Other than presenting the filmmaking process in a very simple and one-sided way, the rest of the movie as very few faults. It is clear that the film won’t be for everybody. This isn’t an anime film with romance or action as their main storylines, this is a movie about following your dreams and finding your true calling, even if you don’t know what that calling is yet.
The score, by Kenta Matsukuma, elevates many of the scenes to another level. By itself, the score is a great piece of music, which makes it sad that the movie feels the necessity to add pop songs here and there when making montages or any sort of transitional scene. It is a Japanese animation convention, but it would be nice to see someone breaking it every once in a while.
Takayuki Hirao does an amazing job leading the film in the director’s chair. His previous work on Paranoid Agent comes through in this movie, and the every once in a while the style of the late Satoshi Kon makes presence. It isn’t like Hirao is stealing from the late master, but it is undeniable that when looking for help, it is better to look to help from the best.
Pompo The Cinephile is a charming and well constructed film. Some of its views on filmmaking feel contradictory, but the core message still manages to find its way. Movie are really a powerful thing.