FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE YET TO SEE POMPO: THE CINEPHILE, THIS IS A NON-SPOILER REVIEW.
What film geek hasn’t dreamt of getting the chance to make their passion project and to stand up at the Academy Awards to receive recognition for their work? Pompo takes this dream and weaves a narrative that fulfills all of those fantasies. So, going into the film, as a huge lover of anime and being the cinephile that I am, I was fully prepared to fall in love with it. Unfortunately, I have some real issues with a lot of the messages in Pompo, that ended up not sitting right with me. Though I still think there might be enough here to satisfy diehard fans of this medium.
WHAT IS POMPO ALL ABOUT?
Pompo is a talented and gutsy producer in “Nyallywood,” the movie-making capital of the world. Although she’s known for B-movies, one-day Pompo tells her movie-loving but apprehensive assistant Gene that he will direct her next script: a delicate drama about a tormented artistic genius, starring the legendary and Brando-esque actor Martin Braddock, and a young actress seeking her first break. But when the production heads towards chaos, can Gene rise to Pompo’s challenge, and succeed as a first-time director?
HOW GORGEOUS IS THIS FILM VISUALLY?
Let’s start off with the positives. First and foremost, this film is so lusciously animated that I could stare at it for hours on end. The amount of detail in every frame is magnificent. There is also just so much inventiveness in the way certain scenes are composed and shot. Who knew that animators could make the banal task of editing on your computer, look so thrilling? Scenes of our lead Gene hacking through film reels with a giant sword to convey this process, with epic Japanese pop music in the background… is truly inspired indeed.
I also loved the segment of Pompo where they were on location in the Alps, filming their movie. These scenes as Gene tries to get the perfect shot, as he tweaks the script to make it more his own, or when he finally sees his famous lead go method acting and become the character on the page… this is where the movie really packed the most punch for me. These scenes are when the movie slows down a bit. And it finally begins to ring true to the creative process. But, just as quickly as the movie gets to this point in its story, it’s all of a sudden, over.
WHAT IS THIS FILM TRYING TO BE?
As I said earlier, my biggest issue with Pompo: The Cinephile is in its messaging. For a movie about following your dreams and working hard to accomplish your goals… There is something very dour and pessimistic about its perspective. You could argue that that is just how the film industry, or in a broader sense, life… actually is. But, Pompo acts as if it wants to be a wish-fulfillment fantasy for all of the film geeks out there, so the tone of the whole thing just feels extremely off.
Our lead character Gene is visibly shown as different through the bags under his eyes, beady pupils, shrugged posture, and grayed complexion… whereas everyone else around him looks fresh and bright. His young producer, Pompo, tells him that she picked him to be her assistant because he is obviously a social outcast and has no will for life… and that is what breeds creativity. And that anyone with a sparkle in their eye is incapable of so. First and foremost, this does not lend itself well to a captivating protagonist (which Gene is not). And second of all, anyone can find creativity and passion within themselves, despite whatever their circumstance might be.
THE MESSAGING JUST FEELS OFF…
This is a recurring problem throughout the entire film. Pompo, who has basically found her fame and fortune through nepotism and creating crappy B-movies, has a whole lot of opinions about what is right and wrong… and states them all as fact. Pompo declares that films should never be more than ninety minutes because society should not be subjected to concentrate on something longer than that, or that all lead actresses must be beautiful and have sex appeal or else your picture will fail… And of course, this whole idea of who is and isn’t capable of being an artistic visionary.
I found myself frustratingly waiting for the movie to counter all of her ridiculous opinions… Yet, it runs with them and ultimately embraces them. This leads to a finale, as Gene is racing to finish his magnum opus, where he comes to conclusions about his life and what has finally gotten him to this place… that will sour the soul of anyone with a creative heart. And maybe I completely got the mood of the film wrong all along. And it really is a dark, nihilistic meditation on the lengths one must go to and what must be sacrificed to achieve their utmost potential.
Either way, Pompo: The Cinephile never finds the right footing in its storytelling, and thus becomes a jumbled and confusing mess of misguided ideas. I absolutely love the concept of this film, but that’s as far as I got with it.
GKIDS will be releasing Pompo: The Cinephile Exclusively in Theaters on April 27th & 28th, 2022.
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