Kaboom Animation 2023 Review: BLIND WILLOW, SLEEPING WOMAN Sums Up That Murakami Feelin'
Pierre Földes' debut feature is a beautiful and mature animation, decently pegging the work of Murakami.
French animator Pierre Földes, however, does something else: in his debut feature Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman he takes no less than six stories from the Japanese master, and weaves them together into a single, strange narrative. It's an approach which works because Murakami himself often leaves questions unanswered, being more interested in making his readers think than in providing them with a rigid story. Földes uses one story to plug the open end in another one, or a plothole in the third. And as each story still leaves room for interpretation, you don't really miss out on any ambiguity.
And so we get to follow the adventures, or rather non-adventures, of salaryman Komura, his wife Kyoko and his colleague Katagiri. A few days after 2011's cataclysmic earthquake, Kyoko suddenly leaves Komura, just leaving a note which says "you are friendly and not an evil man, but living with you is like living with a bag of air". This causes Komura to take a week off to rethink his life, dumping his work on the beleaguered, overworked office-troll Katagiri.
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman then follows the thoughts of these three persons, and it makes for a surprisingly pleasant viewing. Kyoko ponders something weird that happened on her twentieth birthday, Komura questions whether there is anything but air inside of him, and Katagiri must team up with a giant talking frog to save Tokyo from another devastating earthquake. You know, general day-to-day life kinda things...
The characters face the irony of life, and need to figure things out for themselves. How did they get where they are now? What can life still offer them at this point? The film shows their thoughts and dreams, and the animation allows for some wild fantasies as well, which look amazing. Pierre Földes used different styles of animation, mixing 2D and 3D, and it keeps his film interesting to look at even when not much happens (which is often).
Murakami himself hasn't commented on the film and does not allow the director to quote him during interviews. He did, however, allow his name to be used on the posters and all other marketing. It is probably the biggest compliment Foldes can expect. I'm not the biggest scholar on all things Murakami, but in my view Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman sums up the man's themes nicely. Life is full of melancholy, but you can still get some amount of pleasure from thinking, writing... and, of course, cats.
I liked the film a lot and so did viewers at the 2023 edition of the Utrecht-and-Amsterdam-based Kaboom Animation Festival, where it played. And earlier this year, audiences at the International Film Festival Rotterdam awarded the film a rating of 4.4 out of 5. So if you're a fan of animation and Murakami, and do not mind to have to do some interpretation yourself, this film comes highly recommended.
(Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman is playing at festivals and is currently being shown through several arthouse cinema chains in the Netherlands.)
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman
- Pierre Földes
- Pierre Földes
- Haruki Murakami
- Amaury de Crayencour
- Mathilde Auneveux
- Arnaud Maillard