Despite some exaggeration, Pompo is a decent anime take on filmmaking.
Pompo: The Cinéphile (2021) Review By Mark McPherson
Published on May 5, 2022
Rating 3 /5
Pompo is a film that exists in a dreamlike world of filmmaking that comes with an anime allure. In the same way that a lot of anime tries to exaggerate and inject passion into just about any topic, this film aims to make the experience of creating film a noble and exciting adventure. It’s an adorable picture for this inspiring angle, even if it does round off a lot of corners to make it cuter than cunning.
The film takes place in the fictitious city of Nyallywood, clearly meant to portray Hollywood. Well, at least the aspirational vision that many hope it to be. Gene Fini is a film set assistant who is trying to absorb as much film knowledge as he can. He loves film and most likely spends a lot of time watching it, judging by the permanent bags under his eyes. He works for a film studio run by the child Joelle Davidovich "Pompo" Pomponett. It’s gotta feel weird for someone like Gene, most likely in his twenties, to be given orders by a pint-sized producer who looks to be half his age and half his height. But he plays the game because he figures this is the best way to break into the industry.
Gene is presented with a golden opportunity to prove himself. With an upcoming B-movie on the horizon, Pompo needs Gene to make a 15-second trailer that will draw in an audience. Gene, having been obsessed with all things movies, takes to this trailer with great ambition. His time in the editing room feels as though he’s fighting his way through a virtual sea of shot footage. When he turns in an amazing trailer, he’s given an even bigger project: directing a drama written by Pompo.
The rest of the film focuses entirely on Gene’s journey of making a movie from beginning to end. He learns everything about the process from making on-set decisions to finding a means of finance. One of the most triumphant scenes features Gene struggling to cut the film down to 90 minutes from 72 hours of shot footage. It’s portrayed as a grueling experience that is sure to invoke comparisons to a Dragon Ball Z fight or a Sailor Moon showdown, where the sheer will of our hero will save the day.
Gene’s adventure is only made complete by the friends he makes along the way. He meets an experienced B-movie actor and a fresh actor who Pompo not only hires for a major lead in the latest film but wrote the entire screenplay around her. Also present in Gene’s film is his acting idol Martin Braddock, posed as a sort of Marlon Brando type who is a bit cocky but also mindful of the director. There’s also an old friend of Gene who is an accountant that finds a clever way to convince his bank to invest in Gene’s movie, as fantastical as it may seem that a board room would be won over by a live stream.
While the film is certainly going to be a treat for any filmmakers or editors (especially editors for the third act), it does walk down some rather simplistic roads. For instance, Gene speaks with Pompo about how he loves the movie Cinema Paradiso but she disagrees with its importance, stating that it’s far too long. She makes the argument that great films should be 90 minutes long, a contentious topic in online film discourse of artistic intent versus commercial appeal. There’s also the more deeply troubling issue of Pompo only giving new talent a shot if they don’t have a sparkle in their eyes, correlating suffering with great art, which is a far more contentious topic that is not as explored in this picture. This also leads to the concerning third-act shock of Gene ending up in the hospital after overworking himself in the editing room, touching upon but hardly exploring the draining nature of the tough deadline that the stern Pompo refuses to back down from.
Despite some exaggeration, Pompo is a decent anime take on filmmaking. It comes as no surprise that it’s based on a manga considering all the typical anime tropes plunked into this film that seems more baffling than believable. It also comes as no shock that the film portrays filmmaking with more passion and drive than going harder on the tougher areas. All that being said, it’s possible that such a picture will inspire the next generation of filmmakers within the anime crowd and that’s a joy that even the most sugary of anime stagings can’t sour.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.