Miyazaki goes out with a masterpiece

THE WIND RISES: A fitting swansong to Hayao Miyazaki's illustrious career.
THE WIND RISES: A fitting swansong to Hayao Miyazaki's illustrious career.

Review: The Wind Rises (PG) 

Directed by Hayao Miyazaki

Hayao Miyazaki has announced his retirement. The Wind Rises, he says, will be his last feature film. There'll be plenty of people reading this review whose only reaction to that sentence will be "Who", and "Why should I care?". But for some of you, reading that Miyazaki is hanging up his pen will be akin to hearing that Walt Disney or Hitchcock had died. Miyazaki has been one of the most influential animators in cinema's history. He is known in the west especially for Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howls Moving Castle and Ponyo, all of which have screened in New Zealand.

A few weeks back, working with a friend, we put up a giant inflatable screen in Waitangi Park, and showed Spirited Away to a mid-week night-time audience. The night was bitterly cold, but of the several hundred in the crowd, I didn't see anyone leave.

Miyazaki's proudly hand-painted two-dimensional style may seem quaint next to Avengers and Hobbits, but his humour, his compassion, his artistry, and his sheer unalloyed genius for spinning a fantastical yarn have never been bettered. If you've a child in your house in need of a movie these holidays, any decent video store should be able to provide you a copy of Howls Moving Castle. Put the child in a comfortable chair, and push play. Check on them in an hour or so, and they'll still be sitting there, happy, and in a state of some wonderment. Miyazaki was, and remains, one of the best there ever was.

The Wind Rises is a fanciful, fantastical, retelling of the life of Jiro Horikoshi. Horikoshi was an aircraft designer and engineer in the years leading up to World War II. His life was defined by his career, by his absolute opposition to war, and by his love for his wife Naoko. Horikoshi lived through the great Kanto earthquake of 1923, and through the bombers firestorm that razed Tokyo in 1945.

Miyazaki takes the raw material of this fascinating life, and shapes it into his most profound, beautiful, and moving film yet. As history, as art, as political statement, and as the last act of a fabulous film-making career, The Wind Rises is an unmissable event.

The Dominion Post