THE WIND RISES
DIRECTED BY Hayao Miyazaki
STARS Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt
The Wind Rises (Photo: Disney)
When Hayao Miyazaki's latest film, The Wind Rises, opened in Japan last July, the writer-director was blasted by many of his fellow countrymen as being "anti-Japanese" and "a traitor." Then in January, at the annual awards meeting of the Boston Film Critics Society, Village Voice scribe Inkoo Kang accused his movie of whitewashing Japan's shameful history and called it "morally repugnant" and "disgraceful."
Sometimes, a fellow can't win no matter what.
Despite Kang's passion, the movie nevertheless was voted Best Animated Feature by her peers in Boston and is currently an Oscar nominee in that same category (where it almost certainly will lose to Frozen). It's easy to sympathize with Kang but difficult to accept her criticisms, as anyone who knows anything about Miyazaki understands that he's antiwar (he's embarrassed by his country's participation in World War II and also condemned Bush's callous destruction of Iraq) and has even criticized the warmongering policies of Japan's current right-wing administration. Clearly, The Wind Rises isn't a film about war but a valentine to the creative spirit.
The controversy swirling around the movie stems from the fact that its central character is Jiro Horikoshi (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), the airplane designer whose creations were employed during WWII (including those which attacked Pearl Harbor). Yet while the politics of war often hover around the picture's edges, its primary thrust is looking at how this young man pursued his dream of aviatic inventions, inspired in no small part by the love of his sweetheart Nahoko (Emily Blunt) as well as his imaginary conversations with the famous Italian aircraft designer Giovanni Caproni (Stanley Tucci).
As with all Miyazaki movies, the animation is frequently breathtaking and the filmmaker's empathy for his characters is never in question. The 73-year-old artiste has insisted that this will be his final motion picture, that he's now officially retired. While it would have been preferable if his final at-bat was a masterwork on the order of Spirited Away, Castle in the Sky or My Neighbor Totoro, electing to be gone with the Wind certainly isn't a "disgraceful" way to wrap up a distinguished career.