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'The Wind Rises' is complex and problematic (w/video)

  • A scene from the animated film, "The Wind Rises." (AP Photo/Touchstone Pictures - Studio Ghibli)

If “The Wind Rises” is Hayao Miyazaki's final film, as the great Japanese animator has claimed, it also may be his least typical.

“Typical” isn't a word usually associated with Miyazaki, whose films encompass epic eco-fables (“Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind,” “Princess Mononoke”), timeless children's classics (“My Neighbor Totoro,” “Kiki's Delivery Service”), surreal folklore fantasies (“Spirited Away,” “Howl's Moving Castle”), and aeronautic pigs (“Porco Rosso”). But he has never tackled a real-life subject before, and “The Wind Rises” is — on the face of it, anyway — a biopic about Jiro Horikoshi, the designer of Japanese fighter planes used during World War II.

Should you see it? Of course you should. Anything Miyazaki does is worth your time. But the movie's a gorgeous, problematic anomaly in an illustrious career.

“The Wind Rises” is one of this year's Oscar nominees for best animated feature, and Disney is releasing it in this country mainly in a very good dubbed version featuring a top-flight Hollywood cast (some theaters will also screen a subtitled version).

For much of its running time, the film's an exquisitely realized historical drama with a cruel irony hovering in the background. Horikoshi (voiced by Zach Callison as a boy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as an adult) is a dreamer, an artist — an airplane designer so obsessed with the idea of human flight and the engineering minutiae needed to realize it that he barely exists in the real world. Yet the machines he and his colleagues build are used to kill people by the thousands.

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