Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Wind Rises (Kaze Tachinu)

Plot: A Japanese aircraft engineer, Jiro Hirokoshi,  strives to design beautiful planes that end up being used as fighters in WW2. It is basically a true story of how the Japanese Zero fighter was made. Jiro is kind young man who helps people, and who falls in love with a pretty Japanese girl.  [imdb]    [photos]

Review: This colorful animated film is distinctive in two ways, it tells the story of a hero engineer striving to make something beautiful and functional, and it tells the human story of Jiro growing up, falling in love, and dealing with sorrows. Director Miyazaki shows us images we don't see in animated or conventional films for example, there is a dramatic rainfall that starts as a pitter-patter in the weeds and becomes a downpour. There are beautiful scenes of nature, and wonderful images of railroads. 

It is a common style in Japanese media for the love story to be sincere and not ironic.  One reason to see a Japanese movie is for this sincerity.  I find a sweet romantic story refreshing, but if you were not ready for it, you might find it corny. When was the last time you saw an American story (or song, or novel or TV show) this sweet and non-ironic? 

There are dream sequences where Jiro meets Italian aircraft designer Giovanni Caproni, and they talk about life and love, and also the corruption of technology to war. Caproni is a mentor, and at the end Jiro's friend. 

There is another scene where Jiro goes to Germany to see the German heavy bombers, and meet its designer. The scene shows the aircraft as beautiful, but also as far out of reach of the poor Japanese. 

The Oscars are tomorrow, and The Wind Rises is up against Frozen. While I liked The Wind Rises, I like the liberating message of Frozen more. Both movies have interesting messages, but Frozen feels better, whereas The Wind Rises is more intellectual. 

Written and directed by: Hayao Miyazaki

Rating: 3.25 stars: same rating as Frozen, which we saw last week. 
More: I know that old-time Japanese engineers smoked cigarettes, but there is a lot of smoking in this movie, and I can't figure out a reason for it. Later one of the characters gets tuberculosis, and I was trying to figure out a connect, but I couldn't. I did not like Jiro smoking in front of the tuberculosis patent. Bad, Bad, Bad.

Even more: If I had middle school kids, I take them just to get them interested in math and science. American movies never have hero engineers -- except perhaps Star Trek. You might even have to explain how a slide rule works.