Sunday, February 23, 2014

Tonight's Movie: The Wind Rises (2013) at the El Capitan Theatre

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.

I was drawn to see THE WIND RISES by the fine reviews and my increasing interest in Japanese cinema, and since this was my first Miyazaki film I wanted to do it right and see it on a big screen. The El Capitan also gave us the opportunity to see the film in Japanese, with subtitles; the English voice cast has some excellent names, including Stanley Tucci and Emily Blunt, but I feel the Japanese soundtrack, with the original vocal inflections and nuances, is the best way to see what is, in essence, a serious Japanese drama.

THE WIND RISES is a biographical film, telling the story of Jiro Horikoshi (Hideaki Anno). As a young boy Jiro dreams of piloting planes, but his vision is not good enough, so instead he decides to become an aeronautical engineer. On his way to the university, he survives a great earthquake and has his first encounter with Naoko (Miori Takimoto), who years later will become his wife.

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).

THE WIND RISES covers unusual subject matter for an animated film and is really aimed at an adult audience, presenting a serious, realistic story with moments of humor. The leisurely, finely detailed storytelling will likely appeal to those such as myself who appreciate the films of 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.

The hand-drawn animation provided many moments of great visual beauty, such as the resort where Jiro and Naoko reconnect, yet I felt it was as close to a live-action film as a cartoon has ever been. I could envision this film being made with live actors quite easily, which is unusual for an animated film.

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."

Highly recommended.


Blogger jamie guo said...

You're first Miyazaki? Oh wow, you're in for a treat then. My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind are some of my favorite films. He has so many wonderful gems.

I have yet to see The Wind Rises, but plan to as I have seen most of his works. His later films have been more iffy with me, as I find I much prefer Miyazaki's films that he wrote himself (the ones I listed before), not the ones based off other people's books (such as Howl's Moving Castle, The Secret World of Arrietty, etc.).

It's a real pity more people don't know about his work, as they rival and often surpass the finest Disney/Pixar's films.

2:48 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for your feedback, Jamie! I would be interested to know how THE WIND RISES strikes you when you see it. Thanks for mentioning your favorite Miyazaki films!

Best wishes,

11:57 PM  

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