Review: The Wind Rises

I don’t normally talk about recently released movies in this blog, but I’m going to make an exception for Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises. There are very few directors/writers that I will see pretty much anything they make. Miyazaki and now Joss Wheadon are the exceptions.

I’ve been a big fan of Hayao Miyazaki since Spirited Away, which remains one of my favorite movies of all time. There are scenes in that movie that are my favorite moments in all movies of all time. It’s not a perfect movie but the parts that work are so good that I can forgive its shortcomings.

The Wind Rises is an interesting tale of a young Japanese aeronautical designer named Jiro in his quest to move Japanese aviation into the big leagues. I rather enjoyed it. It’s not Spirited Away or Howl’s Moving Castle but I love stories about people struggling to solve an intellectual problem; it’s simply a joy to see them work it out. It was wondrous when the movie would show his thought processes, his x-ray view of planes. There is a sweet love story in the movie, which was actually pitch perfect.

I also liked the historical aspect of the film; we saw Japan in the 1920s and 1930s, struggling to find its place in the world and deal with its economic troubles. It made me yearn to go back even though the Tokyo in the film is very different from the one in the movie.  It was interesting how the film tried to deal with the fact Jiro’s designs were effectively for war but I think it tried to take the stance that the artist and scientist design for love of the craft, not for the potential harmful uses of the craft. I think it could have been explored a little bit more.

The movie isn’t full of fantasy as other Miyazaki films, which I’m partial to in Spirited Away. But there was an element of the fantastical. There are dream sequences where Jiro meets a famous Italian aeronautical designer Caproni. They are a little jarring but Caproni is kinda of a fun character with his crazy giant planes.

One thing that really struck me in this film along with Miyazaki’s others is the role of transportation. While this movie is about airplanes, there is so much focus on other forms of travel: train, boat, and bus. Spirited Away has an incredible train sequence. I feel that it’s more than just a device to move characters from one place to another; as a writer and director, Miyazaki doesn’t have to show those in between scenes if he didn’t want. I think he’s making a comment about the beauty and loneliness of travel, how it’s such a pervasive aspect of modern life, even in 1910-1930s Japan. I have come to love his transportation sequences even more than his natural ones (which make me yearn for hiking!).

Anyway, now I have to watch all the Miyazaki films that I haven’t seen.

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