Following the news about Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki’s retirement, we tracked down some of the new reviews of his latest (and now possibly final movie) The Wind Rises, which screened at the Venice and Telluride Film Festivals recently. The maestro’s 11th animated feature has been holding tight to the No. 1 spot in Japan, and has made over $88 million since its release on July 20th. Disney’s Touchstone banner will reportedly release the film for an Oscar-qualifying run on November 8 this year.
Here is a sampling of the somewhat mixed reviews of the film from English-language press.
Xan Brooks of The Guardian writes:
“The latest from Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki looks astonishing but fails to face up sufficiently to the politics of its subject – genius fighter jet designer Jiro Horikoshi… Here is a film with a clean outline and a foggy center. I wanted to love it, tried to love it and then went down in flames. It turns out that it is not always possible to view the beauty in isolation. Sometimes you need to take a long, hard look at the outside world and then perhaps connect the two.”
“Naturally the animation is a joy to behold. The film’s crisp colors and commanding lines summon up a ravishing portrait of pre-war Japan with its puffing steam-trains, huddled neighborhoods and lulling nocturnal tram-rides through town. Some of the setpieces (most notably the apocalyptic earthquake that leads to the burning of Tokyo) are the equal of anything the director has produced in Spirited Away or My Neighbor Totoro. But the film itself is genteel to a fault. It’s too polite, it needs more bite. It lets enigmatic Horikoshi off the hook, bobbing out to the clouds, forever out of reach.”
Scott Foundas of Variety calls the film hauntingly beautiful.
He writes, “As grown-up as 2008’s Ponyo was tot-friendly, Miyazaki’s 11th feature draws a sober, socially astute portrait of Japan between the two World Wars, marked by flights of incredible visual fancy, harrowing images of poverty and destruction, and touches of swooning romance. Already a major hit at home, Wind will prove a trickier sell offshore than the helmer’s more familiar fantasy adventure pics, but should soar with animation and aviation buffs, and discerning arthouse goers of all stripes.”
“If that romance is the only part of Wind that feels a tad too leisurely in its pacing, it’s a small quibble with a film that otherwise affords so much narrative and sensory pleasure. Miyazaki is at the peak of his visual craftsmanship here, alternating lush, boldly colored rural vistas with epic, crowded urban canvases, soaring aerial perspectives and test flights both majestic and ill-fated. ‘Airplanes are beautiful dreams,’ notes Caproni in one of pic’s fantasy sequences. So, too, this movie about them.”
Deborah Young of The Hollywood Reporter finds the film’s visuals shout out that life is wonderful.
She notes, “The ambitious The Wind Rises is something of a special case that will divide audiences into two camps, those who find it an unforgettably beautiful and poetic ode to life, and those who tune out to its slow-moving second act, which can wear down the patience of even the well-disposed. On the other hand, the daring subject — the engineering of technically advanced war planes by the Axis powers for use in the Second World War – is so honestly handled it should not present a problem for Western viewers…The war itself remains off-screen, except for a chilling final vision of vapor trails clawing the air above ugly dark clouds, and below them a cemetery of metal pieces from fallen planes. “Not a single plane came back,” says Jiro disconsolately. “That’s what it means to lose a war.” This attitude of regret, but not apology, makes The Wind Rises a very honest film from a great Japanese artist.”