Due to his deteriorating eyesight, japanese master animator Hayao Miyazaki (director of such classics as My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away) has announced that The Wind Rises is most likely going to be his last feature. It is the story of Jiro Horikoshi, the man who was responsible for the design of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero airplanes Japan used to fight in World War II. Although it is based on the life of a real person, the film is highly fictionalized something that, in my opinion, makes it a better film. Miyazaki seems to admire Horikoshi, but The Wind Rises is not as interested in the man himself, but with grander ideas about creativity, dreams and the darker and more tragic aspects of humanity.
At one moment, someone asks Jiro if he’d rather live in a world with or without pyramids. Jiro’s dreams of creating airplanes come from a place of pure wonder, but his creations will be corrupted and used for destruction. If something beautiful gets corrupted, does it matter that it once was beautiful? This is the main conflict presented in The Wind Rises, and the film explores them beautifully, through fabulous dream sequences and a melodramatic love story that couldn’t be more appropriate for such an earnest film. Every frame is visually outstanding and the score by Joe Hisaishi is one of the best he’s composed in his long collaboration with this masterful auteur.
If this is, indeed, Hayao Miyazaki’s last film, then it is a fittingly powerful and deep last act to one of the greatest careers in cinema. The movie is currently playing until Thursday November 14 on an Oscar-qualifying run in New York and Los Angeles. The movie will also be released sometime early next year, but probably only in a dubbed version. If you live in New York or LA (especially if you’re a fan of animation) and you have some time between today and Thursday, then don’t let the opportunity to see one of the most beautiful films of the year in its original language.
Grade: 9 out of 10