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Enchanted by hard graft

Hayao Miyazaki’s “The Wind Rises” is a  backward-looking fable about innovation

Nicholas Barber | May/June 2014

Today’s Hollywood cartoons are almost all created via 3D digital animation, and yet the Japanese animator who is most revered in Hollywood, the 73-year-old Hayao Miyazaki, sticks to hand-drawn characters and painted backgrounds. It’s a defiantly old-fashioned approach which is particularly intriguing in the context of Miyazaki’s new film.

“The Wind Rises” is an absorbing biopic of Jiro Horikoshi, the aeronautical engineer who designed the Mitsubishi Zero fighter plane. It’s a nostalgic tribute to a slower, simpler time, with gorgeous dream sequences that recall “Spirited Away” and Miyazaki’s other supernatural children’s films—so its classic animation techniques would seem to be the obvious choice. But “The Wind Rises” is also concerned with the hard graft and obsessiveness that propel people to the cutting-edge of technology, and the thrill of imagining and building something the world has never seen before.

Whirring with paradoxes, it’s a backward-looking fable about innovation, a tender tale of industrial processes, and a pacifist’s tribute to a weapon of war. Despite all the dialogue dealing with flush rivets and aluminium alloys, this film is as enchanting and strange as anything Miyazaki has ever done. ~ Nicholas Barber

The Wind Rises opens in Britain today

 

FILM AT A GLANCE

The Two Faces of January (May 16th). The talented Mr Hossein Amini, who scripted “Drive” and “The Wings of the Dove”, turns to directing with a crisp Patricia Highsmith adaptation. Oscar Isaac sports “Mad Men” fashions as a tour guide in 1962, on the run with a businessman (Viggo Mortensen) and his bride (Kirsten Dunst). The setting for their Oedipal tussle is, of course, Greece.

Frank (out now). Taking a break from searing drama (“12 Years a Slave”) and superhero fun (“X-Men: Days of Future Past”, due May 23rd), Michael Fassbender stars in a quirky cross between “Withnail and I” and “This is Spinal Tap”. He wears a papier-mâché head throughout, so we have to take it on trust that it’s really him.

Next Goal Wins (out now). American Samoa became reluctant footballing legends when they lost 31-0 to Australia in 2001. But now the world’s worst national team is determined to become the second worst. This uplifting and hilarious documentary is their best chance of a trophy.

Venus in Fur (June 6th). Roman Polanski follows “Carnage” with another crafty chamber piece. Emmanuelle Seigner is a giddy actress auditioning for an S&M play in Paris, Mathieu Amalric her snobbish director. Their psychosexual games gain an extra frisson from Seigner being Polanski’s wife—and Amalric being his spitting image.

Belle (June 13th). A mixed-race girl (Gugu Mbatha-Raw, left, with Sarah Gadon) is raised by white grandees (Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson) in Georgian London. Next to “12 Years a Slave”, “Belle” feels starchily conventional, but it does have a striking subplot about slavery.

Of Horses and Men (June 13th). A big winner at Iceland’s film awards, this is a dark, eccentric, magnificently scenic comedy which intertwines half a dozen tales of repressed passion and sudden violence—all of them equine-related. ~ NB

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