What might be Hayao Miyazaki's last film makes its US debut this weekend, and naturally critics are in love with it. The beloved filmmaker announced his retirement after The Wind Rises debuted at the Venice Film Festival last year. Since then the movie—a biopic of Jiro Horikoshi, who designed Japan's World War II fighter planes—has earned acclaim, an Academy Award nomination, and criticism for its treatment of the war, Korean laborers, and even cigarette smoking. Here's what people are saying:
- "Miyazaki couldn’t have picked a more piquant swan song," writes Richard Corliss at Time. The Wind Rises "weaves a tender, doomed love story into two volcanic decades of Japan’s history." Miyazaki is in his 70s, but this movie "betrays no hint of flagging energy, let alone senility; it is vigorous, subtle, thematically daring, visually gorgeous."
- This is definitely a departure for Miyazaki. It's suffused with his "characteristic sensitivity and breathtaking vistas, but it nonetheless feels more earthily literal than the director’s standard family-friendly fare," writes Ann Hornday at the Washington Post. "Younger viewers may not be so transported as the protagonist by talk of flush rivets … but Miyazaki manages to cast a mesmerizing spell over even those quotidian objects."
- But then there's that controversy. "Should you see it? Of course you should. Anything Miyazaki does is worth your time," writes Ty Burr of the Boston Globe. "But the movie’s a gorgeous, problematic anomaly in an illustrious career." Miyazaki largely ignores the damage done by Jiro's planes, treating it as "an unhappy necessity." We're to focus on Jiro's personal tragedy, not the tragedies of World War II. This "artistic blindness" makes for a "dazzling, frustrating experience."
- Dana Stevens at Slate disagrees. While it misses some opportunities to dive into the historical tragedies here, "there's also no denying the constant presence ... of the twin specters of wartime trauma and survivor's guilt." They suffuse "every frame of this dark and difficult film, which, it should be stressed, is not at all for young children."