THE WIND RISES (2013) is a moving, deeply engrossing masterwork from famed Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki.
Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli has a relationship with Disney, so the film, known in Japanese as KAZE TACHINU, is currently showing at Disney's El Capitan Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard.
Jiro goes to work for Mitsubishi and gradually works his way up the ranks with groundbreaking new designs. Meanwhile, Jiro courts and marries Naoko, whose tubercular condition makes their romance bittersweet.
A moment where Jiro jokes about his one-handed skill operating a slide rule, as his other hand hold's Naoko's, is as lovely and realistic a romantic moment as has ever been put on film. Their story avoids treacle, being leavened by moments of hilarity, particularly at their wedding; the brisk intervention of Jiro's doctor sister Kayo (Mirai Shido) is also welcome. That said, I'd be curious to know if the ending reminded anyone else of LOVE IS A MANY-SPLENDORED THING (1955).
Yasujiro Ozu; for example, my daughter pointed out the wonderful bits of business in the scene where Jiro first reports to work, which add texture and realism. Yet while the 126-minute film took its time, my attention never flagged.
Is it disquieting to realize that the "beautiful dream" of a plane designed by Jiro turns out to be a Zero, used to kill so many Americans and allies during World War II? Of course. And yet rather than being put off, I felt that it added an additional layer of complexity to a film which could ultimately be construed as encouraging peace; witness Jiro's regret as he surveys the ruined remains of so many of his planes at the end of the film.
I've been rooting for Disney's FROZEN (2013), which joins the pantheon of that studio's animated classics, to win Best Animated Film at next weekend's Oscars. However, I can now say I would not be sorry were THE WIND RISES to win instead, it's that good. In my view, both films deserve the honor.
Parental Advisory: This animated film is rated PG-13 for disturbing images and smoking. A PG rating makes sense to me, but PG-13 strikes me as overdoing it.
Additional reviews: Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times writes that the film is "stunningly beautiful and completely idiosyncratic"...Leonard Maltin also describes the movie as "stunningly beautiful, at a level of artistry we rarely see"...Lou Lumenick rated it four stars, calling it "simply a masterpiece."