THE WIND RISES opened to a mixed reaction in Japan, it was looked upon by many to kind of support or condone the actions of the Japanese Empire during the times of ww 2, and was seen to put on pedestals the designers of fighter planes such as the infamous Zero, which was used during the war by the Japanese forces and is immediately associated with the attack on Pearl Harbour and also the dreaded Kamikaze Pilots that deliberately crashed their planes into ships and buildings causing death and destruction. However although the movie was criticized it was also gazed upon with much affection because of its stunning and beautiful appearance and presentation. Filmmaker and animator Hayao Miyazaki created an animated motion picture that is a sheer delight to the eyes of cinema goers. The esteemed and revered movie maker has had a career that is filled with triumphs, these include, PRINCESS MONONOKE, HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE, SPIRITED AWAY and THE VALLEY OF THE WIND. His studio which goes under the name of Studio Ghibli, has produced some of the most alluring and insightful movies that although are all animated deal with important issues such as the environment and tackle a plethora of controversial matters. It is probably true to say that the acclaimed animator is responsible for increasing the popularity of the Japanese anime genre outside of Japan with his films and has converted the most anti of critics and cinema goers with his striking and attractive artistry. Miyazaki has since the early 1980,s utilized the musical skills of Joe Hisaishi for his movies and the composer has created some wonderfully melodic and emotive soundtracks to enhance the images on screen. Hisaishi’s music has underlined, punctuated and ingratiated these sometimes controversial, complex but entertaining stories and somehow has given them greater depth and warmth, adding higher levels of emotion and sensitivity to the proceedings, the music itself becoming not just background or support but integrating with the characters and the stunning animation to become an integral and important component of the filmmaking process. The relationship between director and composer here, can I suppose be likened to the Morricone/Leone partnership or the creative collaboration of Speilberg and Williams and also to a degree the Hitchcock/Herrmann partnership.
Hisaishi has over the years become a popular and highly respected figure within film music circles, his largely symphonic scores are normally filled with lush and at times opulent thematic material that is enhanced further by choir and an array of superb solo performances and I am confident that if the composer worked more frequently outside of his homeland he would become a household name very quickly. Animator Miyazaki has collaborated with Hisaishi on more than a dozen films and each project has brought forth exquisite results both musically and on screen. Hisaishi’s score for THE WIND RISES is filled with rich and infectious compositions, that purvey emotion and also drama, but at the same time the composer creates moments that are delicate and fragile-like. The score itself is moulded around three central themes, one of these being somewhat Sicilian in its style and it is this composition that opens the compact disc entitled, JOURNEY (DREAMY FLIGHT) the composer utilizes accordion and also mandolin and embellishes these with guitar to shape this Italian sounding piece. In fact if one were to listen to it without knowing who the composer was one would probably surmise that it was the work of Rota or maybe Luis Bacalov. Hisaishi makes excellent use of this theme throughout the score and it returns on a number of occasions, at times with a slightly more up-beat or faster tempi or with slightly differing instrumentation. Hisaishi adding timpani and a military sounding beat that gives it a more urgent persona. It is this theme that accompanies the films central character Jiro, it underlines and supports the characters aspirations and hopes of working with planes, at first it something of a surprise that the theme is somewhat Italian flavoured, I suppose because one gets a fixed idea that it is a Japanese production, but when you take into consideration that Jiro,s hero is an Italian that designs aeroplanes it soon fits and makes perfect sense, I also felt that this theme contained a hint of sound that resembled that of a brass or colliery band in the background which is also present in track number 8, CAPRONI but that is just a personal observation.
As I have said the JOURNEY composition is given a number of outings within the score the most energetic and full version is heard in track number 15, which is sub-titled WIND OF ITALIA, accordion and mandolin play in unison accompanied by tuba and strings giving the composition and even more Italian sound to it. Then we have a rather more subdued and delicate sounding piece that the composer uses to accompany Jiro’s wife, a woman who he shares his aspirations with and one who supports and loves him through good times and bad.
This is displayed perfectly in track number 5, Naoko, in which a fragile sounding piano solo picks out the simple but affecting theme, with piano performance courtesy of the composer. All in all this is a lovely score filled with themes that are essentially simple and caress the movie gently and with care and tenderness but are also effective as stand alone pieces of music that work wonderfully. I have no reservations in recommending this soundtrack.