Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Wind Rises

Kaze Tachinu; animated drama, Japan, 2013; D: Hayao Miyazaki, S: Hideaki Anno, Miori Takimoto, Hidetoshi Nishijima

A biography of Jiro Horikoshi, a Japanese airplane designer in the first half of the 20th century. Denied to become a pilot because he is nearsighted, Jiro decided to design planes in the interim period. He finds a job in a company run by the military, who wants to build fighter planes. Jiro is even sent to the Third Reich to study its plane design. Back in Japan, several of his test planes fail, but he meets Naoko, a young, yet sick girl, and they fall in love. During World War II, Jiro's new design, the Mitsubishi A5M, succeeds, but Naoko dies.

Hayao Miyazaki's 11th and final feature length anime film, "The Wind Rises" marks the end of the director's filmmaking career which spanned 34 years, but also an unorthodox, strange exception in his opus since it is his only non-fantasy film - and a political one, at that. It is puzzling why Miyazaki, who always made movies about life, decided to suddenly make a biopic about politics and history, yet he still managed to deliver a worthy, nostalgic, emotional and proportionally well made 'swan song', since the two hour long running time is directed with such elegance that it never drags (except maybe in the final act) whereas he once again demonstrated his masterful skill in one of the most impressive sequences of his entire career, the virtuoso earthquake episode where tremors bend the soil and railway tracks like a tidal wave on land, equipped with a very expressionistic moment of the hero passing through thousands of people and a bus in the city after the disaster. Miyazaki presents the protagonist, airplane designer Jiro Horikoshi, as a dreamer, and thus one could direct some criticism for whitewashing his role in World War II, here through the quest for Greater Japan, yet the storyline never denied that during that time Japan was on the wrong side (Jiro's trip to the Third Reich subtly hints who was its ally) and focusing too much on that would be off-topic - the blame is not on Jiro who only wanted to design planes, but on the military who abused those inventions for a wrong purpose. Even Fellini's "Amarcord" focused on the 'slice-of-life' moments of people, not on the regime. Some of the (melodramatic) cliches bother (once again it shows a couple where one lover is terminally ill), yet the film is done with a lot of imagination and dreamlike moments (Jiro and Caproni walking on a wing of a flying plane), whereas its final shot congruently seems to melancholically evoke Miyazaki's own farewell to the audience, before he would go off into the sunset.


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