Monday, March 10, 2014

The Wind Rises (orig. Kazetachinu) [2013]

MPAA (PG-13)  ChicagoTribune (3 1/2 Stars) (3 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
AsianWiki listing

ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (S. O'Malley) review
AVClub (M. D'Angelo) review

The Wind Rises (orig. Kazetachinu) [2013] [IMDb] [AW] (written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki [IMDb] [AW]) is one of several World War II themed films from former (U.S.) adversaries that have made it to U.S. shores recently.  Others include the German miniseries converted into a two-part film Generation War (orig. Unsere Mütter, Unsere Väter) [2013] and the Russian 3D epic Stalingrad [2013] (yes, I know that the Russian dominated Soviet Union was technically an "ally" of the U.S. / Britain during WW II, but it was subsequently an adversary during the 45 year Cold War that followed and may be becoming an adversary again).  To be honest, I've found every one of these films both challenging (often in different ways) and instructive to view.

For instance, the current film, done in Miyazaki's / Studio Ghibli's signature animated style is about Jirô Horikoshi (voiced in the English version by Joseph Gordon-Lewitt) the principal designer of the Japanese Mitsubishi Zero fighter plane (the one used by the Japanese to devastating effect to bomb Pearl Harbor, among other places ...).

It's a "lovely" film.  It does much to "humanize" Horikoshi along with German bomber designer Hugo Junkers and pioneering Italian aircraft designer Giovanni Battista Caproni (voiced in the English version by Stanley Tucci) -- yes ALL the WW II era Axis powers were represented.  Horikoshi, for instance, was in love with a lovely if tuberculosis afflicted young woman named Nahoko Satomi (voiced in the English version by Emily Blunt).  Junkers was presented as an "all-purpose" German engineer who had started his engineering works making household appliances including radiators (and it was suggested that some of the rather "clunky" aethetics of the Junkers aircraft derived from their creators' more humble/practical origins).  Finally, Caproni with whom Horikoshi talked to only in his dreams was portrayed as a Leonardo Da Vinci-like "dreamer."

It's all well and nice, but at the end of the day, THESE PEOPLE MADE KILLING MACHINES.  Now, obviously aircraft designers on the other side (the makers of the elegant British Spitfire, the super-practical (100 days from initial request to production) U.S. P-51 Mustang or the Soviet Il-2 Sturmovik "Flying Tank"  (also designed / made "in a hurry...") TO SAY NOTHING OF the designers of the British Lancaster or American B-17 (Flying Fortress), B-24 (Liberator) and finally B-29 (Super Fortress) bombers ALSO MADE KILLING MACHINES.  But I'm pretty sure that I don't particularly care that one or another of these weapons designers "had a child with autism," because all these folks built weapons that rained death upon innocents who were ALSO "taking care of their sick mothers and grandmothers," "liked books" or even "ran a puppy shelter or two."

But director Miyazaki may have a point.  Certainly the West has long forgiven CARD-CARRYING NAZI rocket designer Werner Von Braun, whose V-2s rained terror, death and destruction down on London and Antwerp during the closing year of WW II, because he _later_ took the U.S. (and indeed the world) "to the moon" with his Saturn-5.  But then a Japanese film-maker would not necessarily care much for the POST-HIROSHIMA / NAGASAKI "pacifist views" of U.S. atomic bomb designer J. Robert Oppenheimer.

But then this may be the film's point.  ALL these aircraft designers -- Caproni, Junkers, and  Horikoshi -- would have preferred to make MORE POSITIVE USES of their talents.  "But they lived in the world and time that they did."  Indeed, Caproni even tells Horikoshi in a dream: "All artists have but 10 years of greatness to create.  Engineers are no different.  Use your 10 years well."

Did he?  That's one question that the film maker asks viewers to consider.  Are you? Is perhaps the more pertinent and _challenging_ question that the film maker asks his audiences as well.

A good (and aesthetically _lovely_) film , if honestly, a rather disturbing one as well ...

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