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Pompo: The Cinéphile, A Cut Above The Rest

Hello to the Lost Summer Fold! Another Anime NYC weekend is behind us and it feels so good to say these words again. As we’ve done in the past, a roundup and review on Anime NYC 2021 are currently in development. Believe us, there is quite a lot to say! But for now, I wish to review a movie that I had the chance to see in its premiere. On the last day of the con, Pompo: The Cinéphile was one of the movie premieres featured and it was the one that I’ve seen.

Due to the nature of the film and the fact that it was a premiere, I’m walking on Lego bricks on thin ice so as not to say any spoilers, instead, I’ll discuss the plot’s synopsis and the effect it left on me. That said, there are light spoilers but nothing plot-heavy.

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I came into the movie blind aside from the synopsis that it was “a film about film.” Now, my whole experiences with “films based on cinema” can date back to when I was a much younger Nay who would watch flicks like Cats Don’t Dance. As there’s little to no relation to Pompo, that movie was about an up-and-coming actor who wanted to make it in Hollywood while dealing with the trials and tribulations of being prejudiced on who they were. 

Being the first production from CLAP studios, Pompo: The Cinéphile speaks on the highs and lows that come with directing a film. Despite the name of the movie, Pompo’s main character is arguably Gene, assistant to scriptwriter Pompo.

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From the beginning, Pompo and Gene are helping direct a “summer b-movie” known as Marine. Featuring a bikini-clad beauty who fights a killer squid, the art style shifts to accentuate the lead actress’s features. In a later conversation, Pompo discusses that although the movie may be “bad” by purists’ standards, so long as the actress is beautiful it will do well among peers. It is then that the movie Meister comes about, as a title where everyone involved has the chance to make the one movie with a story they wish to tell to the audience.

Shortly before this, Pompo notices that Gene has aspirations of being a movie director due to an idea-filled notebook he carries around. Having noticed this trait about Gene, Pompo encourages him to be the director of a movie she has in mind that will be the pinnacle of film. While hiring a big-name actor to take the lead role, Pompo also looks towards a younger woman in which it is her first time being in a film, much less a major one. 

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Armed with nothing but the script for the upcoming movie, Meister, Gene gets to work, knowing it’s everyone’s most ambitious movie yet. Meister is the debut of an actress bound by her dreams and a director whose life involves wanting to make the same films he grew up to be a fan of. 

This is also the story of a famous lead actor who grows out of a ten-year slump to make this his magnum opus and an eager young screenwriter who wishes to live up to her name “Cinéphile.” Meister becomes a bridge to reconnect with old friends, opening the eyes of non-believers and is the one ticket to reaching fame and accolades. In many ways, Pompo is an ode to the underdogs who all band together for this similar purpose.

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The tone of Pompo is told through clever film techniques, including the utilization of rewinds and timelines. Some characters are introduced in a handful of frames who end up being central characters in the movies, one such example being Natalie. Described earlier as the young woman who has dreams of being an actress, she’s seen at first working a construction job. 

Gene first meets her on his way to the movie studio happily skipping through water, then later seeing her dejected leaving the audition. Through several rewound scenes, it’s revealed that the girl was applying for one audition out of many and was initially rejected but later got the role she applied for. The movie rarely goes into “flashback” mode, but it does so as a way to cut-in relevant information. 

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This comes into play when Gene’s high school life is discussed and how separated he was from the rest of his peers for being a “movie nerd.” In that same high school, one of the same people who gave him a hard time ends up being a valuable ally as a way of making it up to Gene for bullying him.

During the editing process, Gene alternates between cutting, pasting, and editing a raw movie timeline with that of an expressive “shonen-style” combat scene. Using a “sword,” he cuts and weaves film complete with a backing vocal track, giving much life to the mundane and stressful. It is during these artistic expressions that Pompo thrives upon.

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There is a lot of information that is told through both the movie that Gene is editing, Meister, and Pompo itself. This is where Pompo ties everything together as the protagonist in Meister and their story is parallel to Gene’s story in Pompo. During a crucial moment where Gene is in an immense slump, he looks over at the footage and realizes that the movie he directed and edited is his story

From this point on, Gene saw himself through the protagonist’s eyes and realized that for the story to be complete, more sacrifices had to be made. With the support of his peers, his dreams are realized. What makes this beautiful is that even though I saw snippets of a “movie-within-a-movie” with Meister alongside Pompo, both movies are the same. This was Gene’s story and the struggles shown in Meister were shown through his eyes.

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From a creative mindset, Pompo: The Cinéphile resonated with me as someone who constantly asks themselves “Well, why do you do this?” Why go through so many sleepless nights trying to do something that others have done, objectively better as well? Early on, Pompo herself states that it’s not the director to decide that but it’s the target audience to determine if such a project is good. The support that Meister had amongst its peers was proof of this, but at times it can be brutal to keep going.

A common message throughout Pompo was the number of sacrifices to social life, joy, and overall comfort one has to make if they are serious about what their craft entails. Whether or not it’s worth it depends on how much one sees themselves in their work. Sure, it may not reinvent the wheel but who cares? If it’s something you wish to share with the world, then all of the hard work you and your peers will be worth it. If your peers see it for themselves, they will support that hard work and passion despite naysayers who will try to push otherwise. The crowdfunding scene was one such scene that stood out to me for that very reason.

the cinephile

Needless to say, the movie premiere was a success, both Meister in-universe and Pompo itself, as I left the screening content. The punchline at the end is something I won’t spoil, but I felt it was the cherry on top. While Pompo: The Cinéphile may be a bit rough around the edges, it delivers its message in a way that’s easy to follow and its visuals were amazing for a studio’s first time. Takayuki Hirao had come a long way from directing The Garden of Sinners adaptations and God Eater anime for Ufotable to directing his first film for the first time in almost a decade. Pompo: The Cinéphile is a feature film worth a watch or two, with its charming characters, relatable plot, and perfect finish.

The Lost Summer Highly Recommends ✓

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