By Glenn Dunks
February 25, 2014
“Artists are only creative for ten years,” says the lead character of Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises. Given the Japanese animation legend has been writing and directing for 35 years – his debut was 1979’s The Castle of Cagliostro – that’s a particularly glum career assessment and likely the impetus behind his retirement announcement at age 73. He has since reneged on that, but finally bringing his passion project to the big screen would have been a fitting way to an end the career of a man who broke records, won an Oscar (for Spirited Away in 2002), and created a towering legacy.
The notion of legacies is in fact what drives The Wind Rises. The movie is a somewhat-fictionalised account of the life of Jiro Horikoshi, a man who wanted to be pilot, but due to bad eyesight became an engineer instead and was instrumental in the design and creation of many fighter jets used in WWII. This more adult-oriented material will likely disappoint viewers who prefer the more playful and adventurous Miyazaki. That said, while the subject is admittedly darker, the whimsically drawn animation is a typically beautiful delight full of swirling rhapsodies of colour and eye-popping action sequences.
It may prove controversial to some segments of the audience who find the film glorifies a man heavily responsible for so many deaths; a last minute anti-war stance falling somewhat short. Similarly, the parallel love story is a disappointing mix of blatant sexism and soapy melodrama that never takes off (pardon the pun). What makes The Wind Rises work, however, is the obvious affection Miyazaki has for the story. Whether it’s his final feature or not, in adapting his own manga to the screen, the director’s fears and perceived inadequacies are laid bare.
I saw the flick with its original Japanese audio track and given its cultural specificity, I’m glad I did. I can’t even imagine the experience of hearing Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Martin Short play on that side of the historical fence. Either way, The Wind Rises is a visually intoxicating look at history as filtered through the eye of a genius many years later.
The Wind Rises arrives in Australian cinemas February 27, 2014.