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The Wind Rises

The Wind Rises

Many slick animated features are like fast food, quickly
digested and forgotten. Hayao Miyazaki’s The
Wind Rises
is more like a banquet. Every frame, every composition and
background is stunningly beautiful, at a level of artistry we rarely see. The
storytelling has the ethereal quality we’ve come to associate with this
masterful Japanese filmmaker. What’s more, the narrative is highly personal to
Miyazaki, who says this will be his final directorial effort.

The Wind Rises follows
a winding path on parallel tracks: a boy named Jiro is passionate about
aircraft. Forced to come to grips with the fact that his poor eyesight will
prevent him from becoming a pilot, he decides to design planes instead.
(“Airplanes are beautiful dreams,” he’s told by his hero, a forward-thinking
Italian.) During an eventful train ride in the 1920s he meets a girl who turns
his head, and helps her during a crisis. Years later they chance to meet again
and fall in love. Their delicate and moving story is set against Jiro’s
burgeoning career.

Miyazaki traces a fair amount of 20th century
history but does his best to leave war out of the equation. His characters engage
in dialogue that emphasizes their love of engineering and design, disdaining
the need for bombs in their planes and hoping for passengers instead. (Some
people are uncomfortable about the film’s climactic development of the Japanese
Zero, one of the deadliest aircraft in World War II, but we can’t ignore or
erase history.)

No one else would even attempt to merge a tender, youthful
romance—pure, naïve, simple—with a young man’s lifelong pursuit of the perfect flying
machine. Certainly no one else would render such a story in old-school,
hand-drawn animation instead of surrendering to modern CGI. But that’s what
makes Miyazaki unique. The Wind Rises is
not a children’s film, and even grown-ups will have to adjust to its leisurely
pace and unusual subject matter. Just know that your effort will be handsomely

(Full disclosure: this review is based on seeing the
Japanese-subtitled version of The Wind
that was screened for Oscar qualification late last year. I haven’t
yet had time to see the newly-dubbed edition Disney is releasing, but based on
the studio’s careful treatment of other Miyazaki imports I am counting on a
faithful rendition that honors the original. Voice artists include Joseph
Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Martin Short, Stanley Tucci, Mandy
Patinkin, Werner Herzog, Mae Whitman, Jennifer Grey, and William H. Macy.)


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