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Double Feature: PORCO ROSSO, 1992, GKIDS, 94 min. Dir. Hayao Miyazaki. This unsung treasure from Hayao Miyazaki nestles a tale of morality and identity inside a soaring tribute to early aviation and the reckless flyboys whose home was the open sky. Set in a mid-WWII Italy swept by fascism, the film follows Marco, a world-weary flying ace turned bounty hunter, who plies his trade above the waters of the Adriatic. Somewhere along the way a curse has transformed Marco’s head into that of a pig, reflecting his loss of faith in humanity. Marco meets his polar opposite in the innocent and energetic 17-year-old Fio, an aspiring airplane designer, and the two are catapulted into an airborne adventure pursued by air pirates, the Italian army and an egotistical American flying ace. In Japanese with English subtitles.
WHISPER OF THE HEART (MIMI WO SUMASEBA), 1995, GKIDS, 111 min. Dir. Yoshifumi Kondo. In the mid-1990s, the great Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki (SPIRITED AWAY) wanted to begin mentoring a new generation of animation artists in Japan. The result was WHISPER OF THE HEART, a gentle coming-of-age drama scripted, produced and storyboarded by Miyazaki and then directed by Yoshifumi Kondo (later animation director on PRINCESS MONONOKE), whom Miyazaki hoped would introduce new blood into his Studio Ghibli. Adapted from the manga by Aoi Hiragi, the film tells the story of Shizuku, a shy student with high school entrance exam worries and inchoate aspirations, who meets a magical cat on a commuter bus and follows it to a boutique where significant objects abound, each with a story of its own. Notable for its celebration of the mysteries of daily living, in WHISPER OF THE HEART “Miyazaki’s script suggests that a sense of magic can exist, even in everyday Tokyo,” according to animation historian Charles Solomon. The story of a young girl finding her voice both literally and figuratively, WHISPER OF THE HEART is a film tinged by tragedy: Yoshifumi Kondo died of a brain aneurysm in 1998. His only feature attests to his talent, and Miyazaki has yet to find an equally gifted protégé. In Japanese with English subtitles.