Are you a fan of Hayao Miyazaki? Then you’ll be sad to hear that this is his last film but then, perhaps this film will not make your list of Miyazaki favorites…
The Wind Rises is a beautiful, painterly film that’s been nominated for an Academy Award this year. With a two-hour running time and a narrative that contains little of his trademark fantasy elements, it was difficult to stay engaged. Some of the blame may be that I was wedged into a row with knees crammed against a hard wooden divider in the historical (but not so comfortable) Boulder Theater…
There are some lovely dream sequences and for fans of airplanes and trains, there is an abundance of images to enjoy. There is a funny caricature of a raging boss that adds amusement and a lovely interlude at a Swiss spa that lets the story breathe. Based on Miyazaki’s manga (Japanese comic) about the real engineer who designed fighter plans for World War II, The Wind Rises wants you to care about our young hero, Jiro Horikoshi, being forced to design planes for the war effort instead of following his dream of designing slick, aerodynamic jet planes. The film celebrates a craft that many may not be familiar with, and by showing how driven and talented this young man is, elevates the engineering to show the art involved. There is a sweet romance with a young woman suffering from tuberculosis and an unusual depiction of the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake and the tragic aftermath. Miyazaki has a masterful way of showing wind moving through the trees and fields but overdoes it with endless shots of planes crossing the sky.
In one of Jiro’s dreams, he is speaking to his mentor, Gianni Caproni (the Italian aviation pioneer) and the older man tells him that he has 10 years “in the sun”. The character (and possibly Miyazaki) believes that there are only 10 years of prime creativity and encourages Jiro to make the most of those years. Was this meant as a comment on Miyazaki’s own career? He has certainly had a long and productive career and he’s mentioned retiring many times. Now his son, Goro Miyazaki, is directing. His film, From Up On Poppy Hill garnereed critical acclaim in 2011. It’s my sense that even if this IS Hayao Miyazaki’s last film; he will stay on to run Studio Ghibli.
“The landscape in the movie is the landscape of the country where my mother and father grew up,” says Miyazaki. “I knew the story of Jiro when I was 12, and airplanes were a hobby for me, but I never thought that, 60 years later, that would become my final animated feature movie.” http://www.vanityfair.com/vf-hollywood/hayao-miyzaki-animator-the-wind-rises
There was much to enjoy in this film: lovely images, a beautiful soundtrack, and the sound effects of the planes starting up sounded like a child blowing raspberries. The romance was sweet and the young woman was drawn so beautifully–but the running time felt about 20 minutes too long.
I did find it amusing to be watching my second animated film to feature William H. Macy’s voice in one weekend; he’s also featured in Ernest and Celestine! The Wind Rises won the Best Animated Feature at the Boulder International Film Festival but the only other feature was Ernest and Celestine.
Rating: 3 Japanese beers out of 5
Passes the Bechdel Test