A look at the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the man who designed Japanese fighter planes during World War II.A look at the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the man who designed Japanese fighter planes during World War II.A look at the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the man who designed Japanese fighter planes during World War II.
- Giovanni Battista Capronias Giovanni Battista Caproni
- (Japanese version)
You know, it's been three months since I discovered his work and I never had to experience any kind of disappointment. And although I got used to his unequaled capability to catch my eyes and my heart, some of his movies really hit a sensitive chord, like "Kiki" or "Ponyo" and perhaps the action-less moments of "Nausicaa".
But I can't really describe the effect "The Wind Rises" had on me. For one thing, I'm glad I'm discovering it late because it's the film that best captures Miyazaki's love for airplanes. His passion never went unnoticed; how could it be? Almost half of his movies involve airplanes, flying devices or stunts in the air, but there has always been an element of fantasy that distracted from the personal approach he had to flying, even in "Porco Rosso" which was the most explicit homage to the Italian contribution to aviation.
But "The Wind Rises" made me realize how fantasy is perhaps the sincerest medium to convey passionate matters, because -to put it simply- it's all about dreams and vision that wait for the right wind to carry them a little and give them that extra push they need for flying. "The wind has risen, one must try to live" is the excerpt from Paul Valéry's poem that novelist Hori Tatsuo used as an inspiration for a tragic romance, and who else than Miyazaki could explore such a story, he who had dedicated all his life to things in the air, from feelings to plain things (pun intended). One thing he had in common with Jiro Horikochi, the main protagonist.
The film deals with planes in a way that has never been touched by Miyazaki, it's not about flying but about the dreams of flying, their very blossoming in the fertile soil of a man's mind. In fact, the film is less devoted to planes than to the devotion of a boy, then a man, who designed the Imperial Army's most notorious aircraft. They were used in the war but the film has a point to make about war. Miyazaki believes in Jiro's humanism and expresses it through very riveting dreamy moments. Jiro is a dreamer, literally, and whenever he dreams, he meets his all-time idol, Italian Giovanni Caproni. Together they share their views about planes, their universal appeal and sadly their belligerent uses (or misuses).
But don't get it wrong, just because it's in the poetic vicinity of Miyazaki's usual works, the film is as realistic as any serious biography picture, although fictionalized with a romance adapted from the "Wind Has Risen" novel and many events that struck Japan from the Great Depression to Kanto's earthquake, and last but not least, the war. Jiro is portrayed as a witness of his time who must adapt to the evolution of society, a two-pace society with a feudal heritage yet trying to match the Meiji dream. The most emblematic image is the prototype being pulled by ox. This is Miyazaki's most personal film, it has Japan, it has humanism and well, it has planes.
And to give you an idea, this film is far more revealing about Jiro than "A Beautiful Mind" with John Nash. There was something so catching in Jiro's passion, in the way he kept focused on his job. I could even feel I was venturing into his mind as if Miyazaki met him in his dreams before making this film. I have no clues about planes but I do love a movie about passion, this is a film about a man who loves planes by a man who loves them. To judge a good biopic, I guess it all comes to the area of passion driving the maker. Having thick glasses, Giro could never fly but Caproni almost rhymes with epiphany, the Italian icon tells him that he can't even fly a plane, but there's just something far more exhilarating than creating. And Miyazaki wouldn't disagree.
The heart of the film is centered on the romance between Jiro and a gentle tuberculosis stricken girl, like Hori's wife who inspired the novel. And whenever they meet, the wind rises and make their encounter possible. Air is our universal heritage, in the film, it reunites people and give a proper meaning to their life. This air so fragile in "Nausicaa", this air that symbolizes peace in a world that prepares to war and about which the post-apocalyptic Nausicaa warned us. Miyazaki signs his best film. I enjoyed it so much it could have been twice longer, to the post-war period time.
But the film culminates with the tragic ending and doesn't show much of the war. It is anticlimactic to use a technical term, but I guess it's a fine ending because there wasn't much to add about Jiro once he designed the prototype, once the plane that started as a concept hidden behind a fish bone became a technological marvel. The film is dedicated to the engineer and to the poet. And the verse "The Wind Rises, one must try to live" is so beautiful it could work as an epitaph for Hayao Miyazaki, summing up his best contribution to animation: inviting us to dream, to pursue our dreams and to take them seriously like a poet, a bit like an engineer, always like a dreamer.
This is one of the greatest animated movies of recent times, and given how critical I was about "Frozen", I was shocked that it won the Oscar. From what I read, there was some controversy surrounding the peaceful nature of Jiro, a sugarcoating of the war and an overuse of smoking. I'd say "The Wind Rises" deserved better than being beaten by a film that tried to play the "socially relevant" card to death. But the masterpiece flies over "Frozen" like a zeppelin over a fish bone.
- Sep 28, 2017