No, still not a very *good* movie in the sense of it being awe-inspiring or inspirational, but as far as just being bone-crunching entertainment it does its job. And more importantly the hero and villain, Sullivan Stapleton and Eva Green, are cast just about right, especially Green as the kind of villain(ess) who has a compelling backstory and holds the screen with lots of confidence and bad-assery. Also, not having Snyder as director (though apparently he wrote and produced it) was wise, since this time Murro, while sticking to the 300 formula of slow-regular-slow motion shots, gets either tired or tries just for the good ol' 24fps in the last third or so of the film. It's certainly nothing super-smart, but I had fun.
grotesque, brutal, campy, illogical, arguably both pro AND anti-woman (but also just as arguably anti-religion, or anti-asshole-atheists who laugh in the face of, um, witches), surreal, and fun when it's not too weird. also gotta hand it to the director/star for the Day of the Dead finale, which bumps up this rating a full star
I don't know if I loved it right from minute one, but then it doesn't quite start like any Miyazaki film (well, even with a dream scene). Its a little quieter, more natural, thoughtful and subdued, much like the main character will be through the film. And then earthquake hits. Its unlike anything you've seen in an animated film. It doesn't hype up its suspense or action. it simply shows Its protagonist, Jiro, react to a situation as calm and controlled as possible amid the debris and darkness and chaos, and help a couple of people in need. of course he doesn't know this young woman he saves will be an emotional foundation for his life. But as with any simple but splendid poetry we have a sense of the connection made.
Any other director might just mske it a film about the 1920s earthquake that devastated Tokyo. Not Miyazaki. Soon after Tokyo is up and running and Jiro is after his passion which is airplanes. He dreams about them, and more than that dreams about the Italian icon of flying he looks up to as he gives Jiro advice and philosophical points about flying, inspiration and technology. And very soon after the film is more than anything about this man and his process - finding without any grandiose strokes what can make a plane fly quicker, faster, safer, with more agility and s look like no other. And, sometime soon, finding a love all his own.
Miyazaki has said (once again but probably for real this time) that he is done making films with the conclusion of the Wind Rises. If so, that's fine. I'm not sure if it's any sort of culmination of what his career has veen or what he's said - Though you could certainly have a double feature with Porco Rosso, also about the wonder of flight but more in an adventure fantasy approach and have a fantastic several hours - and yet it's no less a marvel than anything else he's made. And if anything it just reveals more depths to how he feels for people and can show them in dimensions on screen than ever before. It is a biopic still, and a line here or there may be cornball, but so what. Its a fiercely intelligent film with genuine sentiment and a grace that comes from being a master letting your story unfold without rushing, letting scenes play out for full emotional weight, And ample colors and compositions painted with nostalgia for a mood (if not necessarily a side in history).
And yet you may think going in that there will be some sort of agenda politically speaking as it looks at a man who helped, ultimately, design planes that dropped bombs and shot and killed the US during world war two. It really isn't, or as simple as that. A couple of scenes with a German businessman of a sort voiced by Werner Herzog (yes the one and only, you'll know him when you hear him) lays out the futility in war and conflicts. And Jiro agrees. when someone speaks to him about what planes will be sent to fight whom, he is already resigned. "Japan will burn,' he says more or less. And yet he always stays more pragmatic, more about the work and the hard enough task to make the planes and make them fly high and well. This double edged sword also comes out when he is talking to his Italian guru in his dreams (especially the last one at the end of the war).
With all of this, the Wind Rises is a touching love story that seems possibly very doomed from the start - before getting engaged Jiro is told by his love she has Tuberculosis and he doesn't care, or at least about that deterring him away - and how strong their bond is. How often do we get to see people in a movie, animated or otherwise, act like this to one another with kindness and compassion and a tenderness that (for the most part, maybe there's a bit of that "Japanese Disney" schmaltz but not much) is without any reservation? Not often really, at least like this as told at times without words at all; the high point of the picture is when there is a kind of wordless courtship as Jiro flies a paper plane around and it goes to the girl and she flies it back out as he chase to catch it and it repeats. The moving music, the amiable tone of the whole set piece, the mild peril... I'm at a loss to how much that just works because it feels true.
Did I mention its among the ten most beautifully animated films ever made? And I'm sure that group includes Mononoke and Totoro already. And I know full well a term like 'beautiful" is overused and tired. But Miyazaki crafts his works (or did) by hand with lines, water colors and maybe some cgi, and it both serves the story and its own sense of the world it's in: the earthy greens, the shiny clouds and blue skies, the metallic force of the planes, the drab grays of the offices and plane hangers. And yet you are still wrapped up in the tale of this man and those who cared about him or were inspired by and led by him, and is another rarity (easier to pull off in literature, trickier here and Miyzaki just about pulls it off): a mild wind that grows with power and energy, briefly, and then ebbs and flows with reality and, again, thought. I've rarely seen just as thoughtful a film as this, with so much on its mind but confident enough in 126 minutes to get there.
I think when dealing with such a cinematic tableau as Blood Sucking Freaks, with its fiendish goateed midget, s & m and torture, cheekily done decapitation, dismemberment and torture, cannibalism on the verge of an outbreak of the living dead and sexual humiliation, the framing counts. All of this could very easily devolve into a Hershell Gordon Lewis debacle and be tasteless with only the freak show element to it. This is a freak show (as the title posits), but it's also, primarily, a satire on backstage dramas, complete with the melodramatic slave-driving (and in this case that's not too figurative!) director who wants to put something spectacular on stage but has to put up with the drama of putting it together. With, yknow, flailing limbs and screaming stark naked women and ravenous pieces of flesh.
I don't blame anyone who finds this reprehensible trash, but I think why I enjoyed it much as I did - and though it's obviously not laugh-a-minute stuff, there's a very healthy if completely sick sense of humor and absurdity to it all - is that the filmmaker Joel Reed recognizes Its reprehensible trash. He makes his lead "Master" (And an actor at that who is having the time of his life playing a pretentious psycho) and cohort little man the real freaks, and in a sense this is almost like an inverted version of Brownings 1932 film: a savage comedy on terrors and horrors, especially in the realm of shady show business (I mean, that IS where all those off-off Broadway actresses go to after all!)
A good deal of it is cringe worthy and hard to watch - a tooth extraction scene got to me the most - but so much of it is tongue not so much planted in cheek but sticking out the cheekbone that it's hard to take it seriously. This isn't to say there isn't some convincing gore and body parts flying about, and certainly the preponderance of naked ladies in either total buff or dominatrix get ups makes it bona fide 70s exploitation verging on sexploitation, but so much is done knowing it looks goofy and silly. And yet there's even a scene or two, like when the lead ballerina actress under the spell of the master performs and beats up the theater critic, that do have some non-too-shabby camera shots and lighting, making a delirious mood (a second rate clockwork Orange scene as per directed by an actor that is a second rate Peter Cushing why not).
Its almost no wonder then this was, I think, the first film acquired for distribution by an at the tome fledgling company called Troma in ny. Though at times perhaps more extreme than what even they put out - Kaufman admits on the DVD intro that if they were to acquire the film today they would have second thoughts - it's a ridiculous, self conscious, sometimes very smart, sometimes (no, practically always) very crude comedy of horrors (or horror of a comedy) that makes its villain a nasty but incredible presence, and some bad acting and mix of good and odd cinematography. Bottom line, it's better (or I just had more fun with it) than it had any right to be.