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Animator Hayao Miyazaki's 'Wind Rises' Is 'Special'

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

A legendary Japanese animator has a new film out this week. It's only in select theaters for one week only, just enough to qualify for the Oscars. Our film critic Kenneth Turan says "The Wind Rises" is worth seeking out.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: To see "The Wind Rises" is to both marvel at the work of Hiyo Miyzasaki and regret that this film is likely his last. Inspired by the life of a brilliant aircraft designer, it's quintessential Miyazaki: stunningly beautiful and completely idiosyncratic.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

TURAN: "The Wind Rises" begins with designer Jiro Horikushi's childhood during World War I. As a boy obsessed with flying, Jiro dreams he has an airplane parked on his roof, which he uses to soar over the beautiful countryside that Miyazaki creates.

Jiro is too near-sighted to fly himself, so he eventually goes to Tokyo to begin his airplane engineering studies.

On the train he meets a fellow passenger, a bright young girl named Nahoko. She loves poetry, and so does he.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE WIND RISES")

HIDEAKI ANNO: (as Jiro) (Foreign language spoken)

TURAN: The chaos caused by a great earthquake and fire separates these two for years, but Jiro never stops searching for Nahoko.

Jiro is an unusual choice for a Miyazaki protagonist. The director is a fervent pacifist and Jiro is the man who eventually designed the Zero fighter plane that attacked Pearl Harbor. The director says he was inspired by something completely apolitical, a quote he read where Jiro said: All I wanted to do was make something beautiful.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

TURAN: The film's title comes from a line of French poetry translated as: The wind rises, we must try to live. That's what these characters attempt to do, despite the complications life throws at them. "The Wind Rises" is a complex story that resists easy summation but Miyazaki pulls us into this world and makes us want to stay. This is a filmmaker who will be missed in a big way.

GREENE: That's Kenneth Turan. He reviews movies for our program and also for the Los Angeles Times.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kenneth Turan is the film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR's Morning Edition, as well as the director of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. He has been a staff writer for the Washington Post and TV Guide, and served as the Times' book review editor.

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