The Wind Rises
When Hayao Miyazaki, the international auteur who took the world by storm with his universally acclaimed animated features for the past several decades, announced that his latest picture, "The Wind Rises," would be his last feature-length film before settling down into retirement, it filled my heart with sorrow.
As someone who grew up watching his work ever since I was a child, Miyazaki changed the way I looked at not just animated films, but cinema as a whole. I can still recall the first time I saw "My Neighbor Tortoro" before I had reached double digits, and feeling so awestruck by the vastness of imagination, the rich texture of his animation, and the overwhelming sense of emotional potency that was lacking in just about everything else I had watched on television at that age.
While "The Wind Rises" may not go down as my favorite Miyazaki picture, I’m happy to report that it’s still a wonderful film from one of the most influential cinematic masters of our time, and it’s worth every cent to see it on the biggest screen that you can.
It’s also the only Miyazaki film that’s based on a true story, examining the life of Jirô Horikoshi (voiced in the English-dubbed version by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who constructed Japanese aircrafts that were used in combat during World War II. Dating all the way back to his childhood in which he dreamed of nothing but the act of flight, and admired the famous Italian plane designer, Giovanni Caproni (voiced by Stanley Tucci), Miyazaki takes us through the most pivotal moments of Jirô’s life. Everything from the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 to the time his dreams are accomplished is depicted with such vivid, gorgeous detail, viscerally transporting viewers into an animated re-imagining of Japan back in the early 1900s while never losing sight of the human element at the heart of Jirô’s story.
As someone who adored Miyazaki’s more fantastical films such as "Princess Mononoke" and "Spirited Away," a part of me did miss the surrealistic elements from his previous works, but that’s not exactly a fair criticism to make for a biographical film. As a retelling of Jirô Horikoshi’s life, it’s an honorable tribute to a man who stopped at nothing to achieve his lifelong goal of designing planes, even if he would feel a sense of remorse later on in his life. Like most of Miyazaki’s films, "The Wind Rises" is undeniably bittersweet, and while it’s centered around one man fulfilling his dreams, it doesn’t shy away from the more sorrowful moments of his life, providing the film with a deep sense of emotional catharsis.
While most theaters will be showing the film with English-dubbing, there are also some theaters in the city that will be playing it in Japanese with English subtitles. As someone who saw the film in English, the voice-work from the cast is quite strong, but I have to admit that I couldn’t help but be distracted by trying to figure out which iconic celebrity was supplying the voice for a particular character, and it occasionally took me out of the film. For those who have children and wish to bring them along (which I highly suggest that you do), then certainly see the film in English, but if it’s possible to see the film with the original Japanese cast, I feel that it would provide you with a more immersive experience.
Whatever language you see "The Wind Rises" in, though, it’s impossible not to be swept away by Miyazaki’s breathtaking images, Joe Hisaishi’s beautiful score, and the incredible true story that it recreates. If this does happen to be Miyazaki’s final film, it’s a beautiful piece of cinema to top off his extensive filmography, ending his career on a challenging, elegiac note.