Sunday, September 6, 2020

Finally -- a Blu-ray/DVD release of Hayao Miyazaki's 2014 Oscar nominee for animation, THE WIND RISES

What a bizarre (but somehow blessed) subject for an animated movie: the story of Jiro Horikoshi, the Japanese aircraft designer whose work, though he did not believe in the Japanese war effort, resulted in the production of massive fleet of airplanes used against the allies during World War II. From the little I know of Horikoshi's life, the resulting movie -- THE WIND RISES by Oscar-winning filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away) -- though greatly fictionalized becomes in the hands of Miyazaki a beautiful meditation on everything from flying and dreaming to love, trust, friendship, creativity and (perhaps to a lesser degree) responsibility.

The result is an animated film, old-fashioned but still eye-poppingly gorgeous, that seems -- despite its tale of childhood love lost and found -- surprisingly adult, the work of a mature artist (the filmmaker is shown at left) wrestling with difficult themes and finding a way to make them meaningful, resonant and moving.

The time and place in Japan in the 1920s, which makes a nice change from much other animation we've seen, and the pre-WWII background, including an Italian inventor, young Horikoshi, and the German military adds a certain irony to the proceedings, especially for those of us from the Allied side.

"Inspiration unlocks the future; technology eventually catches up," the movie's Italian inventor (above left) tells Horikoshi (above, right) -- an idea of which I'm sure Tesla would approve, and the film spends a surprising amount of time on the details of the technology of flight. And then, in its second half, it becomes a love story that begins in humor and delicacy then morphs into something extraordinarily poignant and sad.

This change is not jarring, however, because the whole enterprise in infused with Miyazaki's rich sense of beauty, mysticism and the natural world. He uses dreams to help forge a new reality and, as usual, his movie is both thoughtful and humane.

Along the way we get everything from a major earthquake to a windswept parasol, and the movie ends all too appropriately in an airplane graveyard and on a note of mysticism and sadness, leavened with as much hope as can be gleaned from a situation this fraught and wasteful. And yet how much beauty and invention Miyazaki has been able to offer us!

From Shout! Factory and running a long but never boring 126 minutes, The Wind Rises is available now for digital download, and will hit the street on Blu-ray and DVD on Tuesday, September 22 -- for purchase and/or rental.

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