Monday, November 11, 2013

The Wind Rises

The legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki has avowed that "The Wind Rises" will be his last film, and what a strange swan song it is.

This biography of the aircraft engineer Jiro Horikoshi - who designed the Zero Fighter used at Pearl Harbor - is part fantasy dreamscape, part doomed "Love Story" romance, and part Axis-powers romp. The untethered freedom of flying has inspired Miyazaki to create some exquisite images, including several studies in deep, rich purple cloaked in darkness and bathed in light. The movie's main problem is that the engineering aspects of aviation aren't especially exciting, or cinematic - at least not as presented here. Jiro gets geeked up about split flaps, flush rivets, and double-barreled fuel gaskets that minimize drag, but Miyazaki doesn't translate those concepts into things we can see and understand. I was touched by the way Jiro's romance with tuberculosis-stricken Nahoko plays out, but their relationship (all chasing umbrellas and tossing paper airplanes) is too reed-thin for real resonance. And while the last of Jiro's recurring dreams with the Italian aeronaut Caproni ends the movie on a poignant note, most of the seat-squirmers in my audience were just glad it ended.

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