Pompo the Cinephile

The main character in Pompo the Cinephile bemoans long movies, claiming that it's torturous for an audience to pay attention to anything for more than 90 minutes. This animated film clocks in at ninety-four minutes, and I'm guessing Pompo would forgive those extra four since they're just end credits. Succinctness, she says, is the key to artistic success. I don't entirely agree with that. Some of the best films ever made needed, and benefited from, their lengths. In this specific case, though, the approach leads to a snappy, reference-laden romp through the world of motion picture production.

Pompo (Konomi Kohara) appears to be a little girl, yet is one of the most successful producers in “Nyallywood.” She's made a string of action-filled pictures, many of which star the buxom beauty Mystia (Ai Kakuma). Pompo has all kinds of theories about the movie biz that she shares with production assistant Gene (Hiroya Shimizu). Gene has aspirations to become a filmmaker – a chance he gets when Pompo taps him to direct the newest screenplay she's written. He's nervous and insecure, especially after she hires a legendary actor, Martin Braddock (Akio Ôtsuka), and an untested newcomer, Natalie Woodward (Rinka Otani). Pompo believes in him, though, sensing talent he doesn't know he has.

Pompo the Cinephile is really more about Gene than it is Pompo. He struggles with developing the confidence to speak his mind on a set, deals with raising money for reshoots, and finds himself lost in the editing room, where the overwhelming number of choices leaves him befuddled. Having to cut material he likes in order to shape his film also proves painful. Writer/director Takayuki Hirao has fun taking viewers through all the stressful behind-the-scenes stuff that goes into movie-making. If you don't know much about it, you might learn a thing or two. If you do, you'll chuckle at the various hurdles the characters have to face.

Animation proves an excellent method of addressing the subject. The ability to give the characters comically exaggerated reactions adds humor while still emphasizing how intense the process can be. Hirao and his team put a lot of detail into the imagery, occasionally drawing strips of celluloid around the edges of the frame, or using clapboards, countdown leaders, and other things to transition from one scene to another. As entertaining as the story is, the movie is endlessly fun to look at, due to the inventive approach.

In every way, Pompo the Cinephile is a love letter to cinema. It admires the work people put into making movies. It respects the audiences who faithfully consume movies. It loves movies themselves. Thanks to its comedic observations and stellar animation, the film will hold vast appeal for non-Pompo cinephiles everywhere.

out of four

Pompo the Cinephile is unrated, but contains one minor profanity and mild thematic content. The running time is 1 hour and 34 minutes.