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At this moment in time it definitely feels like the film industry doesn’t actually like movies. Granted, it may be due to the success of films like Everything Everywhere All At Once, The Bad Guys, and The Northman, but if you watched the Oscars a month or so back, well, the tone and vibe of it all tells a different story. Like, sorry that people want their favorite entertainment to be taken seriously and yet the industry keeps dumping on the talented hard-working people that make the films that award shows like the Oscars “love”. Yes, we have seen films that are all about their love of cinema, but they sometimes come off as hollow and were there for awards and not much else. It’s rare when you get a film that, while maybe flawed, has the passion for someone who loves film. To make these types of films not become shallow experiences, you need to be able to poke at both the good and the bad, and sometimes, that results in films like Pompo the Cinephile.
This film was directed and written by Takayuki Hirao. It’s based on the manga by Shogo Sugitani and was produced by CLAP. The story follows an assistant who works under the famed Nyallywood producer Pompo, dubbed by Brianna Genitella. She is famous for her work of releasing B-grade movies that are hugely successful. The assistant is named Gene Fini, dubbed by Christopher Trindade. One day, he thinks about how Pompo should make a more serious film, and ends up finding a screenplay for such a film on Pompo’s desk. He is then assigned by Pompo to help produce, direct, and pretty much helm this project all in one go. Along with the help of Pompo and a young up-and-coming actress named Natalie Woodward, dubbed by Jackie Lastra, can Gene craft a masterpiece and learn to find the secret and passion for filmmaking?
So, let’s not beat around the bush, a couple of early reviews for the film were not positive. Understandably so, the film is not well told, the cast of colorful characters aren’t fully memorable, it can be a touch messy pacing-wise, and some aspects of the film hit differently, both for good and for bad. However, after watching the Oscars fiasco that was bad no matter how many want to put the blame of it on the slap, this film’s story and the experience hit differently. Yeah, this is one of those situations where watching it after certain events really recontextualizes the overall story of the film. Instead of coming off as a messy uneven film, it’s a film that shows the passion that drives filmmakers, and is unapologetic in showing how the passion can drive and or hurt someone, or absolutely stop projects flat if the right or wrong decision is made. It shows the love for film, but also the brutality of making one. You simply can’t release a 10-hour movie and call it a day. You need to make it flow fluidly from point A to point B. It needs to fit a certain runtime that will make audiences of all kinds happy. Maybe setting up a shot a certain way can help elevate the emotional punch of a scene. It’s a film that loves to discuss these details, but also loves to call out certain filmmakers or aspects of filmmaking, like the jabs at filmmakers creating 2-hour films instead of what Pompo describes as “the perfect length”, which is 90 minutes. It’s funny because the film itself and the marketing portray those runtime gags and trailer edits in the exact way seen in the film. The film itself is literally 90 minutes and that’s a fairly funny meta gag. Still, even with its story that’s all about the celebration of cinema, the editing, and what have you, it still gives you a story with a cast of likable characters to follow and it does capture the joy and ethereal vibes that you get with watching movies, seeing certain shots unfold, and that one magical moment that makes you love movies. It’s a corny, but charming ride with how Gene learns and approaches certain shots with how the story is told.
Animation-wise, the film looks great. It has an appealing mix of more typical modern character looks, but a sprinkle of what can be labeled as retro. Pompo has a fantastic design, and you can see why her visual look has a mix of the more modern, but retro vibes with how pop art she looks. The backgrounds once again take some inspiration for the detailed cityscapes of Makoto Shinkai’s work, and the character movements are given plenty of detail and expressive reactions to certain situations as they arrive in the story. The English voice cast is great as well, with Brianna Gentilella, Christopher Trindade, Jackie Lastra, Anne Yatco, Kenneth Cavett, Jonah Platt, Gavin Hammon, Brock Powell, John H. Mayer, Michael Sorich, and Thomas Bromhead to name a few. They tend to capture the personalities from Pompo’s sharp-witted mannerisms, Gene’s awkward but fiery passion for filmmaking, Natalie’s humble hardworking newcomer persona, Mystia’s outward bombshell look that hides a clever individual, and you get the idea. Kenta Matsukuma, the composer, might not have too much under his belt with work ranging from Black Clover, God Eater, and Real Girl, but he brings a pretty solid soundtrack. It isn’t the most memorable effort, unless you consider the theme songs which were written by other people, but he does get the job done with what kind of mood or stage the soundtrack needed to set.
Now, as for criticisms, there aren’t that many, but the ones that are there do stand out. The music itself isn’t the most memorable, and one can assume that due to this being his first major film score, it’s why the overall soundtrack isn’t the most memorable. As mentioned above, the overall story has some small pacing issues and some story beats go the distance in stretching the suspension of disbelief in how they were able to pull off certain moments. Some characters also feel like they were there for the sake of some crucial story moments or to fill space. They aren’t completely pointless due to their connections with the main characters, but otherwise, they don’t do much.
Yes, Pompo the Cinephile is not perfect, and yes, if I did see this film before the whole Oscars fiasco and some other unexpected events in the film industry unfolded, the reading of this experience would be different. However, it has a lot of charm and passion of a film lover who may not know everything about films but enjoys the medium so much. Unfortunately, unlike Belle, it didn’t get a huge release but will be coming to Blu-ray and DVD on July 12. If you want to see something that has more love of the movies than the entire award season industry, then give this film a watch! Now then, due to how little is coming out, let’s talk about something that has been a long time coming. Next time, we will be talking about the first film in the popular comedy franchise with Bob’s Burgers the Movie.
Rating: Go See It!