Pompo the Cinéphile
(Hiroya Shimizu, Konomi Kohara, Rinka Ootani, et. Al | 1 hr. 30 min | NR | Clap Animation)
Summary: Gene, assistant to a successful movie producer, gets the chance to live his dream of being a filmmaker when Pompo entrusts him with directing a script she wrote.
Verdict: It is sometimes assumed — and incorrectly so — that animated films are meant solely for children. The genre of Japanese anime has done a lot to dismantle that myth, and the delightful new offering, Pompo the Cinéphile, continues that trend.
With spoken dialogue in Japanese and subtitles in English, Pompo the Cinéphile tells the story of Gene, executive assistant to Pompo, a prolific, successful producer of ‘B’ movies. All Gene wants is to soak up as much of the behind-the-scenes movie magic as he can, but everything gets turned upside down when Pompo names him director of a script she writes.
It is this element — the contrast between Pompo’s experience and Gene’s inexperience — that undergirds the whole film. Though Pompo is successful, she is young, having inherited Peterzen films from her grandfather upon his retirement. With family in The Biz, she is largely jaded in her approach to cinema, wishing she could be moved by art.
Gene, on the other hand, has a tremendous passion for movies, and wants to get into production because he has been moved by films. To know that Pompo’s own script is the one that gives Gene his shot makes this concept very compelling.
Beyond providing a realistic glimpse into what it’s like to make a movie — everything from the artist’s conflicted vision and execution of that vision, to the technical behind-the-scenes jargon — Pompo the Cinéphile touches on a some of the larger pieces of discourse around film that you may find on social media.
Gene and Pompo discuss what the proper length of a film should be: Somewhere around 90 minutes, or longer? That issue is often up for debate within the confines of #FilmTwitter.
Pompo’s success could easily be brushed off as nepotism due to her grandfather’s reputation as a producer himself, but in reality, she really knows her stuff. And when she writes a script of her own, she writes specifically with an actress named Natalie in mind, saying, “sometimes you see a story unfold in your mind when you see someone.” Anyone who has ever fancast a movie may find such discourse relatable.
And when Gene becomes consumed with making a film reflective of what his true artistic vision is, it comes at a certain personal cost to him, making the moral of the story, what are you willing to give up in order to achieve your dreams?
From a technical side, the animation style is typical of Japanese anime, with sharp lines, big eyes, and exaggerated poses, actions, and emotions. Objects and sequences around the process of filmmaking are incredibly detailed — everything from cameras to editing sequences to movie trailers are all done in such a way that you can tell the artist is a movie person, too.
There’s a slightly strange element to the film, too. Everything takes place in a sort of alternate universe’s Hollywood, “Nyallywood.” “Naya Cruz” is featured on a skateboard deck in the same font and style of the Santa Cruz skateboard brand. And yet, in this place, real movies like Cinema Paradiso are name checked without a second thought. It’s odd, but it works.
If you are an anime fan who prefers an English dub, for this film, at this time, you may be out of luck. As with any subtitled non-English language film, it demands the viewer’s attention, but to give it ought not be too big of an ask because the whole thing is rather charming, despite a certain edginess it has, with mildly sexualized actresses on screens and a few swears in the dialogue.
And even though the spoken words are in Japanese, many of the written words inside the film are written in English. It’s odd, but it works.
Pompo the Cinéphile is more than just another manga adaptation, or Crunchy Roll anime. It is a whole visual feast made by people who love movies, for people who love movies. And that’s the best part of all.
Review by: Ashley J. Cicotte
Pompo the Cinéphile is releasing in select US theaters April 29, 2022. Check local listings for available showtimes.