Haunting and ebullient, The Wind Rises soars above the fold as Miyazaki’s most profound and personal adventure.
Not since I experienced the heart-string plucking of Hayao Miyazaki’s Oscar-winning Spirited Away have I seen the director’s deep and emotional passion so fully caulk his work. The now 73-year-old gentleman’s purported last work is a masterpiece of narrative, capturing and commenting beautifully both on the state of his country pre-WWII and on people’s intrinsic desires towards rising above themselves and their culture to change the world for the better.
The Wind Rises offers a deeply personal adventure into the life of Jirô Horikoshi – a blooming star of the Land of the Rising Sun during the early 20th century. His optimism and work in engineering helps bring Japan out of its slump following the 1923 Kanto earthquake with the revitalization of the nation’s aviation industry, while simultaneously creating one of the most iconic and terrifying machines of the second World War. Driven by a passion to create beautiful airplanes, Jirô works tirelessly to craft the perfect plane, all the while falling into destiny’s design with a charming woman. A darkly real tale, the film hinges around the fascinating idea that, as circumstances amount, we must “tenter de vivre!” – try to live.
Unlike his prior work which flows with a natural Hollywood style, Wind is reminiscent of the great movements in the cinema arts: Italian NeoRealism and the French New Wave. Look no further than the whimsical score (appropriately titled “A Journey”) headed by a lilting, gypsy-esque accordion and the distinct fret-work of the Spanish Guitar, and it becomes evident. The film’s pace and tone left me with the awe and wonder I know as if I had seen Bicycle Theives again or Godard’s Breathless; it is like a heavy pendant one puts on and wears the weight around for a day.
With a fantastic and surprising voice cast behind the Dubbed version – including John Krasinski, Martin Short, and Werner Herzog – the only element which blocked me from the film was the performance of Jirô by Joseph Gordon Levitt. Whether it was the blankly animated optimism which he always exuded, or the matching lackluster voice which Levitt lent the character, Jirô seemed at times unaware of the events around him, so lost in his dreams he was.
Regardless of this minor trifle, The Wind Rises proves itself worthy of the critical praise given it. A bold testament to a single man’s dream of improving the world around him, Jirô perfectly personifies the hopes and desires director Miyazaki has infused into each of his films. This movie glides valiantly on concepts built of High Art, and takes its viewers on a v flight of fancy. If this is indeed to be his last work, the world and this reviewer bows in respect to the Japanese Master of animated stories, and salutes him for a perfect film with which to sail off into the sunset.