Combustible Celluloid
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With: Hiroya Shimizu, Konomi Kohara, Rinka Otani, Ai Kakuma, Akio Otsuka, Ryuichi Kijima
Written by: Takayuki Hirao, based on the manga by Shogo Sugitani
Directed by: Takayuki Hirao
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: Japanese, with English subtitles
Running Time: 94
Date: 04/29/2022

Pompo the Cinephile (2022)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Teacher Film

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A beautiful, hyperactive Valentine to movies and movie love, this anime doesn't feel very deep or universal, but it celebrates artistic inspiration, collaboration, and craft with high passion and joy.

Gene Fini (voiced by Hiroya Shimizu) is a production assistant in a movie studio that specializes in "B" movies like Marine, a movie featuring a bikini beauty, Mystia (Ai Kakuma), fighting giant sea monsters. His boss, Joelle D. Pomponette — or "Pompo" for short (voiced by Konomi Kohara) — is the doll-like studio head, who inherited the job from her legendary grandfather. She has a brilliant eye for talent, and her films are successful.

After auditioning a new actor, Nathalie Woodward (voiced by Rinka Otani), Pompo is inspired to write a screenplay for a more artistic movie, to be called Meister, and taps Gene to direct it. Working with the legendary actor Martin Braddock (voiced by Akio Otsuka), Gene successfully makes his way through the shoot using his instincts. But then it comes time to edit, and Pompo demands a 90-minute film! Worse, Gene realizes he needs one more scene...

Based on a manga series that began in 2017, Pompo the Cinephile is a little overwhelming at first. Our main character, Gene, has eyes that are perpetually wide open, as if locked in fear, with permanent dark circles lining the bottoms. It's difficult to describe exactly how Pompo fits into this otherwise fairly realistic story; she appears to be a young girl, with a squeaky voice (she likes to shout "Pompo is here!" when she enters a room), with enormous pigtails, and yet she's a natural born leader and decision-maker, with apparently no need to go to school or be a kid.

Then there's Mystia, who seems to be here for her voluptuous figure and flowing blonde hair and little else. But hang in there... the characters tend to find their groove and become almost like a sweet little family. And Pompo the Cinephile doesn't forget to be a movie, either. Its montages and juxtapositions and visual flourishes are always ebullient and grand, especially the sequences in which Gene edits, slicing through giant strips of film like a stealthy ninja.

This is a movie that loves everything about movies, from cheesy monsters, to Oscar-winning performances, from trailers to features, all the way up to Cinema Paradiso itself. If you're not already bit by the movie bug, it probably won't mean much, but if you are, it'll have you smiling for 90 solid minutes.

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