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2014.03.17

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Re: The Wind Rises - I don't think it's an apologia for Shōwa period imperialism so much as a prayer for art's inspirational quality irregardless of context. Like, Werner Herzog's entire first scene is ALL about how shitty and abusive Japan is behaving on the world stage, and throughout the movie Miyazaki *constantly* juxtaposes the beauty of flight with the capacity for destruction - there's one scene where the German secret police are chasing a guy through the streets, and he IMMEDIATELY cuts to Jiro having a vision of a ruined wing (or something) with the Rising Sun on it toppling ruined into the snow... I mean, definitely you can argue the philosophy Miyazaki is espousing, that art cannot (or, morally, SHOULD not) escape the gravity of its circumstances, and, you know... I wouldn't exactly call this a feminist movie either, you can pummel it from that direction, totally. But I don't think the 'apologia for militarism' arguments are supported by the text at all.

I agree, and I didn't mean to oversell the apologetic aspects. My thinking was that this movie was Miyazaki's plea/appeal for art (and beauty) being bigger than war and human lives, something that's worth chasing in spite of how that art will be used by others. The idea that beauty is worth more than the cost of that beauty, maybe. But what struck me was that the way it glossed over those effects (there was symbolism, and I thought the very very end was super good for that, too) made it feel like apologia, even though like you say the movie doesn't really support that. I thought the question of whether the existence of pyramids was "worth it" was key to that, a "Does the misery outweigh the beauty, if the timeline is long enough?"

Which sorta ties into what I was saying about being ignorant of the specifics of Japanese history around this time. Halfway through the movie I was totally struck by my own ignorance. I think a lot of things were taken as read that I didn't catch. It felt like a movie that existed between upheavals, and if I knew a little more, I would feel like it was referencing what was left out instead of glossing over it.

I want to watch it again, actually—I saw the sub instead of the dub, and folks I know who saw the dub have a slightly different appreciation of the movie than I do. I doubt it's a matter of writing, but maybe the delivery is different.

Mostly, I just wanna hear Herzog, though.

Ohhh - well, you also get the added layer of artifice of having the director of Neon Genesis Evangelion playing Jiro, which I think represents Miyazaki drawing a big, fat line connecting artists working in 'industrial' arts... there's kind of a lot of distancing in the film, from the human sound effects you mention to the presence Anno in the lead - I think I recall Miyazaki saying he wanted a non-professional actor to highlight the un-worldliness of Jiro (the personal life of whom is almost totally Miyazaki's invention). The German guy, Castorp, is another one... he's *literally* a fictional character, from Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain, dropped in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen-style. In the Japanese version, he's played by another non-professional, an American Ghibli associate. All of this serves to draw attention to the metaphoric quality of the work...

**Spoilers abound so beware**

I don't think it's an "apologia for Shōwa period imperialism" either but Miyazaki sure glosses over the rise of militarism in his own country and in the Germany sequence (he sure loves those fun loving Italians though!). Yeah it's touched on largely by the secret police in both countries but that's just about it really. The final scene of Jiro in the afterlife with his flamboyant Italian hero among the flaming ruins of his handiwork lasts a moment before his dead spouse shows up for her tear inducing curtain call.

For me the film crashes in what you could call the beginning of the third act at the holiday resort (that I wasn't sure was even in Japan until well into the sequence). I was completely with the story until then. The incredibly chaste Jiro, who has to be in his 30s by this point, is involved in another Miyazaki "chaste romance." He is told by a vacationing German (he's a pacifist 'cause he's a salad eater, 'natch) of the ill wind of the coming war. Anyway, after a protracted sequence of a condensed courtship at his boss's home, where he is hiding from the secret police (don't ask), he is finally led, literally by the hand to intercourse (the only real sex in any Miyazaki film?) by his dying, newly minted, wife (so she won't die a virgin) after which she departs for her deathbed in a TB sanitarium. She pretty much got what she wanted from Jiro then tosses him aside not unlike the Japanese government once they get what they want out of him.

Ultimately, Jiro is a jug full of what other people want out of him. Otherwise there isn't much to him.

Their defeat in WW2 is something the Japanese are still dealing with and it comes up in weird places. I'm in the middle of GHOST IN THE SHELL S.A.C. 2nd Gig right now and it's in there. It's a big sore spot and it has and continues to warp the national psyche. I think a reading of the film regarding the war and art and Jiro's role in it and Miyazaki's telling of it is a valid one, but you really have to look real real hard to find the bits to add up and make the math work. For me it fell short.

I'm a big Miyazaki fan (hey, Future Boy Conan is really good!) but this ultimately left me annoyed. I enjoyed most of it while watching it (there are sequences that are an absolute delight) but got more and more irritated once I started thinking about it. For the record, I saw the subtitled version. It does deserve another look and reevaluation once it hits DVD.

It's far from a masterpiece. I think SPIRITED AWAY is although I like MONONOKE more.

PS: Great podcast guys!

The politics of the movie are pretty tricky; I think he's trying hard to communicate a certain mindset of hunkering down and trying to do your very best work in the face of awful circumstances, and the contrite drive of that rendering you admirable and poignant. Additionally, I suspect the intended (Japanese) audience doesn't need very many details of the run-up to war depicted in order to communicate a message... which, admittedly, can play in to purposeful amnesia concerning the abuses committed by Japan in wartime. Obviously this is a westerner's perspective, I can't really *know* on my own, and I'm trying to be mindful of projecting cultural values overseas...

Ahh, you're actually granting a lot more agency to the wife than I would! I had a lot of problems starting with the third 'act' too, which mainly boil down to Miyazaki's running the romance track in parallel to the 'building the plane' stuff, and giving them equivalence. Like, the girl is Art. That's my interpretation. She's constantly associated with painting, and the revelation of her illness comes with blood spattering onto a canvas - she's not simply Jiro's muse, but a symbol of his pursuit of beauty, beyond any concern for cost. And, as a result, she functions in a manner that flatters Jiro's interests: much in the way he can't stop loving flight, despite *knowing* the harm Japan is bound to encounter, he likewise keeps the girl close to him, to the detriment of her health, with her total approval... the airplanes love him back. This I see as the meaning of her death: she leaves so that she'll remain forever beautiful to Jiro, in the same way that he finally inhabits a total fantasy of blue skies and perfect wind: it's still beautiful to him, because the compromises of his behavior are forgiven, by his wife, his art, and Hayao Miyazaki.

My problem is that grants him this boon in a manner which not only reduces the woman, Naoko, to a force that exists solely to support his heroic impulses, but effectively dehumanizes her as a veritable palette by which the masterpiece is painted. Of course, this is an ideological criticism, but it's weird seeing this kind of arch-traditionalism coming from Miyazaki (who obviously intends the character of the younger sister to 'answer' this potential with an alternate path, but... she's not THE FOCUS OF THE LAST 40 MINUTES OF THE MOVIE). I suppose there is maybe an autobiographical aspect too... he's written about promising his wife that she could have a career of her own, and then basically reneging for the sake of his own work. It could be he means all of this as a tribute to her, albeit one that remains fiercely proud of getting art done regardless of really anyone's suffering. It's Miyazaki's All That Jazz.

I wouldn't rank it among his best either... but then again, I really do think he peaked with Totoro. That movie is AMAZING. It's a fucking miracle. Spirited Away might be second for me...

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