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Plane and not so simple in ‘The Wind Rises’

Studio Ghibli/Walt Disney Pictures

Hayao Miyazaki’s new animated feature, “The Wind Rises,” has not one but two reminders that in-flight entertainment is the least part of the relationship between the movies and aviation. Both are technological wonders, after all, and it takes one to know one.

There have been many memorable movies about flying. Among them is “The Wind Rises,” with its story of aeronautical engineer Jiro Horikoshi, who designed the Japanese Zero fighter plane in the 1930s. Some of those movies, like “The Red Balloon” (1956) and “E.T. the Extraterrestrial” (1982), don’t even involve planes. But when they do , magical mechanical things can happen.

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There’s such a thing as the aerial version of a star turn. Think of the flying aircraft carrier in “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” (2004), Howard Hughes’s Spruce Goose, in “The Aviator” (2004), or the Flying Wing whose propellers Indiana Jones has to contend with while having a fistfight with that bare-chested Nazi, in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981).

Both the Spruce Goose and Flying Wing actually existed — as did the two propeller-driven showstoppers in “The Wind Rises”: the Caproni Ca.60 and Junkers G38. Each was designed by one of young Jiro’s two aviation idols, Count Giovanni Caproni and Hugo Junkers, respectively. Caproni, voiced by Stanley Tucci, figures prominently in the movie. Both planes are fantastical-looking contraptions. One can see why Miyazaki was drawn to draw them. The Caproni was a flying boat with nine wings (that’s right, n-i-n-e), while the Junkers sat passengers in its wings. They had the best seat in the house — except, of course, that houses for airplanes are called hangars.

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