THE WIND RISES (KAZE TACHINU)Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Cast: Hideaki Anno, Miori Takimoto, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Masahiko Nishimura, Steve Alpert, Morio Kazama, Keiko Takeshita, Mirai Shida, Jun Kunimura, Shinobu Otake, Nomura Mansai
Run Time: 126 mins
Opens: 20 March 2014
Jiro (Anno) is an idealistic dreamer, harbouring a fascination with aviation he has had since childhood. Chief among his inspirations is Italian plane designer Giovanni Caproni (Mansai); Jiro often has dreams in which he meets his idol. Years later, while travelling home from university on the train, Jiro meets Naoko Satomi (Takimoto) and rescues her maid from the train when they get caught in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. He embarks on his dream career of designing planes, becoming close friends with his colleague Honjo (Nishijima) and eventually running into Naoko again, pursuing a romance with her. Jiro continues to cling to his boyhood passion for airplanes, but as the vision of Caproni has told him, “the dream is cursed”, his creations destined to become tools of slaughter and destruction.
The Wind Rises has been billed as Miyazaki’s last bow, and though he has apparently “retired” six times, the 73-year-old has assured fans that he is quite serious this time. If The Wind Rises really is the last Miyazaki-directed animated feature, it makes for an even more bittersweet viewing experience than it already is. It is a given that the film is gorgeous to behold, from the watercolour backgrounds to visuals of airplane wings warping and buckling, from engines huffing and puffing like beasts of burden to the inevitable vistas of planes soaring triumphantly through the sky, some of the finest visual representations of man’s ancient dream of flight yet. All this is supplemented by a capable voice cast and a typically gorgeous musical score by oft-collaborator Joe Hisaishi. We saw the original Japanese version, though the American dub voice cast (including names such as Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Stanley Tucci and Werner Herzog) does hold our curiosity.
Still, Miyazaki has managed an adequate tonal balance, capturing moments such as Jiro noticing the elegant curvature of a mackerel bone during lunch and how that influences his designs. The latter half of the film puts the focus on the romance between Jiro and Naoko, taking on more of a traditional tearjerker feel with some melodramatic instances, but it's still effective in that regard. Other clichés are employed, such as that of the boyhood idol/imaginary friend, a role fulfilled by Caproni as he dispenses chestnuts such as “Inspiration unlocks the future. Technology will catch up.” Taking on a heavier tone than is typical of a Studio Ghibli production, The Wind Rises is still very worth watching, although it does not fully address the thought-provoking questions inherent in Jiro Horikoshi’s life and work.
SUMMARY: The film that may well be Miyazaki’s last is expectedly a visual feast, moving and entrancing even if it is sometimes troubling.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Stars