Fantasia Film Festival 2021
North American Premiere
August 7, 1:00 pm
Making a movie with Joelle Davidovich Pomponette (Hiroya Shimizu) is tough. She grew up with Peterzen, her grandad, in front of a big screen. He was a big time filmmaker back in the Golden age of Nyallywood, and he taught the young girl everything he knew. Pompo is an established producer of B-rated hits, but there’s just something missing. Can she be taken seriously? To say she’s Pompo: The Cinéphile is bold–which is also this anime film’s title.
For that matter, what about the precocious Gene Fini (Hiroya Shimizu), her production assistant? And how does Natalie Woodward (Rinka Ōtani) fit in? This aspiring actress had a rough go in her first audition, but that hasn’t dissuaded her from pursuing her dreams.
These three are the focus in this movie based on the manga of the same name. This work by Shogo Sugitani is presumedly still ongoing. The biggest question I had is how can Studio CLAP translate a print series to a 90minute movie? I’m guessing the best story arcs were taken to construct a story! That’s what Fini did in the movie he’s tasked to direct and then later edit Pompo-chan’s latest idea, Meister. This story about a down-and-out conductor needing to find a muse makes for quite the turn for this producer who’s better known for schlocky works.
This anime comedy about making movies neatly presents five tales–including the banker, Alan, and the leading actor, Martin–as they struggle to finish the drama Pompo wrote. We know how big a name she is within the genre market, but to be taken earnestly means writing a drama that doesn’t get cheesy.
The story itself is serviceable. It has its moments to show the glamour of this fictionalized take on Hollywood. There’s a lot of moments recognizable from golden age hits, but to deconstruct that means a different type of review. Instead, I enjoyed the glimpses of what goes on behind the scenes. I’ve stood around film sets observing what goes on, and this presentation is accurate. When concerning what’s not, and mostly synergized ala Sailor Moon is in how Pompo announces herself to the people at the set, and work begins. She’s wildly headstrong. I wonder if this character is an adult who just didn’t get that growth spurt.
Gene is more grounded; From a nobody to somebody, his transition from a nervous individual to a confident filmmaker is very noticeable. Although he’s been working for Pompo for some time now, he’s still not used to taking instruction from her. He’s constantly taking notes and I have to ask how long those two have been working together. Also, not everyone goes from PA to director right away like he has.
Usually, the climb up the ladder means learning the ropes from each department. Knowing how they function means less time being fussy about everything–from makeup to lighting to sound, for example. This film suggests being able to sit on the captain’s chair is a rite of passage.
The fact Pompo has a script that’s not a B-Movie, but a full on drama ala Sound of Music, shows she’s wanting to make the next step too. She sees talent in Natalie and wrote Maistro because of her. I get the sense she’s Dalbert’s muse (the role Martin, the leading man, takes and his day job is a conductor of the symphony.)
Despite the bumps in using nearly every regular anime trope in the book (I see them a lot on the televised front), the story about these three characters is very engaging. The subplot concerning Mystia not owning a smartphone is curious. But the tale about Martin (both are the supporting characters) doesn’t get a lot of exposition. Martin’s subplot ties in with Gene’s. This older man’s career slump becomes part of the main story; the time spent concerning how to showcase an individual’s talent, an aria, is a worthwhile focus.
Pompo: The Cinéphile is more about how everyone gets their moment to shine. I’m reminded of that scene in Sunset Boulevard where Gloria Swanson said, “Alright, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.” Thankfully, this film doesn’t go in that direction but instead is about giving everyone chances. Just how well they succeed depends not just about the effort they make, but the passion, which is very infectious throughout my watch of this film.
This film is not just about celebrating the golden age when cinema was magical and escapist entertainment. Instead, this work is more about the people working in this industry whose heart is in the right place, and they are truly passionate about their work. Without it, nobody can get far. Despite having a Hollywood style ending, we know Pompo & team aren’t likely to disband–much like how indie movie groups function. And its guaranteed we’ll be back to see them again.
4 Stars out of 5
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