Porco Rosso (1992) — PICK

The Secret World of Arrietty (2012) — PICK

 A couple of minor gems from Studio Ghibli are back on Blu-ray.

A rare Hayao Miyazaki film with a definite sense of time and place, Porco Rosso is set in Depression-era Europe, in and around the Adriatic, in a slightly alternate history where buffoonish seaplane pirates harry ocean liners for ransom and battle our mercenary hero, a Bogart-esque noble cynic inexplicably transformed by a mysterious curse into an anthropomorphic pig.

Seaplanes combine Miyazaki’s twin loves of water and sky, and in the movie’s haphazard, kitchen-sink style — aerial dogfights, star-crossed romance, gorgeous scenery, a rip-roaring escape set in Milan, and a nightclub where enemies sit side by side like at Rick’s in Casablanca — we see Miyazaki kicking back and having fun.

As low-key as Porco Rosso is raucous, The Secret World of Arrietty takes place almost entirely within the walls of a single house. The setting is literally within the walls, for Arrietty and her parents are only a few inches tall and live in the secret spaces of a normal-sized, human-inhabited home.

Gentle, compassionate and thoughtful, the film is wise, humane and decent in a way that utterly transcends virtually all American family entertainment.


Caveat Spectator: Porco Rosso: An extended, cartoony-but-brutal fistfight; a few mature references. Older kids and up. The Secret World of Arrietty: A few mildly frightening moments. Kids and up.