Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Wind Rises: The Newest from Studio Ghibli

I'm not so much an anime hound. I've seen a handful of movies here and there, and grew up watching Pokemon (and occasionally Digimon and Yugioh) like most normal children. But there is something about the stuff that Studio Ghibli puts out there that just holds me captivated every. single. time. Between Miyazaki's gorgeous backgrounds, startling surrealism, and fully developed characters there is a supreme level of divine film-making that fully grabs me every time.

So pretty.

The Wind Rises is hardly an exception. A quieter film from the usually flamboyant studio takes a somber turn in examining the life of Jiro Horikoshi (voiced by Joseph Gordon Levitt), the man that designed Japanese fighter planes during WWII. The film begins with Jiro dreaming of flying as a child, making his way to engineering school, surviving the Kanto Earthquake, falling in love with the ill-fated Nahako (voiced by Emily Blunt) and moving on to making fighter planes (sometimes revolutionary ones) for Japanese fight pilots.

Like these.

While the film definitely serves to give a perspective on Japan's side of the story (which was interesting), the focus is on the life of Jiro. While the pace of the movie is a little meandering, the way that he captures the dedication of Jiro to his life's work serves to explain his reserved manner and quiet personality. And it wouldn't be a Miyazaki film if there weren't some weird and melodramatic bits. Between lucid dreams in which Jiro repeatedly sees and converses with fellow airplane designer Caproni, and the dramatic (real) romance between he and his ailing love Nahoko, Mayazaki delivers some signature style.

The movie can be a little confusing at times as the time shifts with little hints that you have to pay attention to. For the American who is used to looking at WWII period films filled with hummers and army green uniforms the Japanese side of the story can get a little confusing. Again, nothing jarring, but you have to pay attention. Wind also cuts itself off before things get bad for Japan and for our lead character, so the majority of the film takes place in the 1920s and 1930s. With this in mind, it's a less than typical war film, and the mood is more peaceful and contemplative. The lead characters, Jiro and Honjo (voiced by John Krasinski), seem resigned to help their airline companies simply because it is their job to make beautiful planes, so a lot of what they talk about is, well, building planes.

Not my favorite Ghibli film, if I'm being honest. It's subtlety is to be admired for sure, but I wonder at the quiet manner in which the director has decided to say farewell to the studio. For a director as willing to take the fantasy genre and run with it, I'm wondering why he chose the life of a quiet airplane engineer as his farewell film for Studio Ghibli.

Still, The Wind Rises remains a creative, interesting, and refreshing take on the biopic genre, and is absolutely beautifully made.

7 outa 10.

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