There’s an incredibly manic energy to Pompo the Cinéphile. Set in a pseudo-Hollywood backdrop known as Nyallywood, Pompo is full of creative bursts of storytelling. Moreover, it is a testament to artistic integrity and being true to yourself. All told through CLAP’s incredible animation that goes through every minute detail of making a film. Pompo the Cinéphile works so well because of how creatively it conveys the feelings of making a movie.
Throughout the history of “movies about making movies”, there hasn’t quite been one like Pompo. Directed by Takayuki Hirao, it’s clear they did a lot of research into Hollywood and the production process of films in North America. As said by the filmmakers themselves, the live-action production process was foreign to them. America’s moviemaking process wildly differs from Japan, making this outside perspective interesting. The beauty (and ugliness) of such prospects appears all too well in Pompo.
Pompo the Cinéphile tells the story of Gene Fini (Hiroya Shimizu), a personal assistant to super-producer Pompo. With each of Pompo’s films, Gene closely observes and jots down every detail he picks up on, from lighting certain scenes to the pacing and structure of films. However, he is too afraid to try and make anything of his own. It’s not until Pompo asks him to edit a 15-second spot for her upcoming sea monster flick that he’s thrown into the creative process.
After that, Pompo delivers an arthouse script. Written by her. For Gene to direct. Gene, put in the director’s chair, finally puts his overzealous film knowledge to use. From location scouting, audio/video setup, and unforeseen inclement weather. Gene has to deal with it all during this Oscar-bait production.
If everything sounds like it’s moving at a fast pace, that’s because it is. Gene and the rest of the colorful cast hurl themselves into a production that never slows down. The lead actress of the arthouse film, Natalie Woodward, is a nobody, with the film being her debut. Moreover, the lead actor is a Daniel Day-Lewis-like legend who comes out of retirement just for this film. All of these moving pieces leave not long after they emerge. In a way, it’s a lot like the hustle and bustle of real movie production.
The fact that Pompo acknowledges that the movie they are making in this movie is Oscar bait is hilarious. The meta-commentary also helps to raise the stakes for Gene’s enthusiasm and “all or nothing” attitude. Every scene of filming in the Alps and Nyallywood is the most idyllic the film is at. It’s only after Gene and the production crew have wrapped up filming that his job really begins. Stuck with 72 hours of footage, Gene has sacrifices he needs to make.
It’s in this section of the film that Pompo the Cinéphile really begins to shine. What begins as excitement in the editing process turns into a grueling search for the soul of the film. Who is Gene making the film for? Why does this story need to be told? As Gene reflects on this, the art of editing is translated through a metaphorical image of Gene with a sword, slashing and hacking through reels of film. It’s a beautiful and striking image as Gene discovers his need for sacrifice. Not everything an artist does will be important, but acknowledging that can lead to something truly special from the said artist.
Pompo the Cinéphile has an ending that is a little too neat for a film that goes into detail about how excruciating the movie-making process can be. However, it’s still admirable that an anime film goes into this much detail about such a process. Despite the underdeveloped characters, the way the animation translates editing and storytelling into something striking makes this film one of the most inspiring and heartfelt of the year. A story about someone’s artistic vision and integrity being supported at all costs makes for a beautiful thing to fantasize about. Especially in a film animated as beautifully as this one. – Ernesto Valenzuela
Pompo the Cinéphile is now playing in theaters.