Monday, 14 April 2014

Film Review: "The Wind Rises" (2013).

“I wanted to create something that is realistic, fantastic, at times caricatured, but as whole, a beautiful film.” Which is what Hayao Miyazaki has brought to The Wind Rises (Kaze Tachinu 風立ちぬ). This Japanese animated historical drama film written and directed by Miyazaki, and adapted from his own manga of the same name which was loosely based on the 1937 short story The Wind Has Risen by Tatsuo Hori, a writer, poet, and translator from mid-20th century (Showa period) Japan. The film is a fictionalized biography of Jiro Horikoshi (1903–1982), it gives us a look at the life of the designer of the Mitsubishi A5M and its successor, the Mitsubishi A6M Zero; both aircraft were used by the Empire of Japan during World War II.

For this review of Miyazaki’s last film, let us reflect and look back on the man himself. Hayao Miyazaki (宮崎 駿 Miyazaki Hayao) is a world renowned Japanese film director, animator, manga artist, illustrator, producer, and screenwriter. Through a career that has spanned six decades, Miyazaki has attained international acclaim as a maker of anime feature films and, along with Isao Takahata, co-founded Studio Ghibli, a film and animation studio. The success of Miyazaki's films has invited comparisons with American animator Walt Disney, British animator Nick Park, and American director Steven Spielberg. Born in Bunkyō, Tokyo, Miyazaki began his animation career in 1963, when he joined Toei Animation. From there, Miyazaki worked as an in-between artist for Gulliver's Travels Beyond the Moon where he pitched his own ideas that eventually became the movie's ending. He continued to work in various roles in the animation industry over the decade until he was able to direct his first feature film Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro (1979). After the success of his next film, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984), he co-founded Studio Ghibli, where he continued to produce many feature films besides during a 'temporary retirement' in 1997 following Princess Mononoke. While Miyazaki's films have long enjoyed both commercial and critical success in Japan, he remained largely unknown to the West until Miramax Films released Princess Mononoke. The film was the highest-grossing film in Japan - until it was eclipsed by another 1997 film, Titanic - and the first animated film to win Picture of the Year at the Japanese Academy Awards. Miyazaki returned to animation with Spirited Away (2001). The film topped sales at the Japanese box office, beating Titanic, it also won Picture of the Year at the Japanese Academy Awards and was the first anime film to win an American Academy Award. Miyazaki's films often contain recurrent themes, like humanity's relationship with nature and technology, pro-feminism, and the difficulty of maintaining a pacifist ethic. The protagonists of his films are often strong, independent girls or young women. While two of his films, The Castle of Cagliostro and Castle in the Sky (1986), involve traditional villains, his other films like Nausicaä and Princess Mononoke present morally ambiguous antagonists with redeeming qualities. Miyazaki's latest film The Wind Rises will be his final feature-length film, when he announced his retirement on September 6th, 2013.

Miyazaki has claimed he was retiring several times, but on September 6th, 2013, he assured his fans that he is 'quite serious' this time. He believes he is getting too old for the business, and wants to make room for new animators. He also says that the task of animating is "quite strenuous" and that he cannot work as long as he was once able to. However, he plans on pursuing new goals, such as working on the Studio Ghibli museum, on which he commented "I might even become an exhibit myself". Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki revealed that Miyazaki will continue to illustrate manga and is currently working on a serialized samurai series. Fellow animator Isao Takahata has publicly stated that he believes Miyazaki's retirement to be non-permanent, "...I think there is a decent chance that may change. I think so, since I've known him a long time. Don't be at all surprised if that happens." During a New Year's Eve radio show, broadcast on Tokyo FM, on December 31, 2013, Toshio Suzuki speculated that Miyazaki might revoke his latest retirement (apparently his sixth to date). A previous home that Miyazaki spent part of his childhood in has been transformed into a museum. The home's current resident, Asuko Thomas, says that she did not know that the house has once belonged to the family of the world renowned animator. The current owner of the house has named the gallery "Hanna", meaning "bond" and "harmony". Many elements of the house have been the inspiration for scenes in several of his films. One example is the stairs in the household, very similar to the hidden stairs in My Neighbor Totoro (1988).

The Wind Rises is the first film that Miyazaki has solely directed in five years; his last work was the 2008 film Ponyo. After that, Miyazaki wanted his next film to be Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea II, but producer Toshio Suzuki convinced him to make The Wind Rises instead. This film is based on a manga by Hayao Miyazaki, which was serialized in the monthly magazine Model Graphix in 2009. The story of the manga is in turn loosely based on Tatsuo Hori's short novel The Wind Has Risen, written in the late 1930s. Although the story in the film follows the historical account of Horikoshi's aircraft development chronologically, the rendition of his private life is entirely fictional. The character of Hans Castorp is borrowed from Thomas Mann's novel The Magic Mountain. Miyazaki was inspired to make the film after reading this quote from Horikoshi: "All I wanted to do was to make something beautiful".

With its epic story and breathtaking visuals, The Wind Rises, along with The Tale of Princess Kaguya (2014), is a landmark in the world of animation. The film is a powerful compilation of Miyazaki's world, an expression of his dreams and hopes, a cumulative statement of his moral and filmic concerns. It is not only more sharply drawn, it has an extremely complex and has an adult script and the film has the soul of a romantic epic, and its lush tones, elegant score by Joe Hisaishi and full-blooded characterizations give it the sweep of cinema's most grand canvases. The film brings a very different sensibility to animation, a medium Miyazaki views as completely suitable for straight dramatic narrative and serious themes. To conclude, it is a windswept pinnacle of its art and that it has the effect of making the average Disney film look like just another toy story.

Simon says The Wind Rises receives:

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