BLIND WILLOW, SLEEPING WOMAN
Directed by: Pierre Foldes France, Canada, Netherlands, Luxembourg
RAD TIMES review by Komal Biradar
Pierre Foldes’ directorial debut and adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s short stories, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman is a film that strings together a series of surreal stories in the city of Tokyo. The film features a cast of peculiar characters such as a woman so overwhelmed by the news of natural disasters that she leaves her husband, a middle-aged lonely accountant who is visited by a giant, talking frog, and a cat that mysteriously goes missing.
The story takes off a few days after the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011, leaving several people injured and dead. During this mournful period for Japan, a couple’s relationship begins to rapidly deteriorate. A schizophrenic, middle-aged accountant who works at a bank is having trouble at work as he is tasked with getting a company to pay back a 7 million yen loan with interest, and is then visited by a mystical frog that claims it needs his help to save Tokyo.
Murakami’s work often flirts with the line between realism and the mysticism, and as it turns out, his more absurd stories are better suited to animation. The film’s main selling, and one of its best features is its unique and eye-grabbing animation style; a seamless blend of 2D computer animation and rotoscope techniques.
To combine this collection of short stories independent of each other and to attempt to weave them into a singular coherent story is an ambitious feat, and ends with the film being convoluted and confusing to the audience. Although the intertwined stories share the theme of existentialism, their connection to one another at times feels convoluted and contrived. This attempt to combine such varying stories makes for a film that is slightly difficult to follow and it appears as though Foldes has bitten off more than he can chew with this ambitious project.
The medley of complex characters all seem to be on parallel journeys of self-discovery and trying to find their purpose again. The film follows unhappy people seeking satisfaction and freedom from their mundane lives, and their mundane selves. The existential crisis that the characters are going through bring up facts and anecdotes from their past, creating stories within stories. The film is not rooted in reality and a touch of surrealism and horror to it. The plot feels malleable and detached from the real world, presenting through changes and shifts in the animation style throughout the film.
Nevertheless, the film is engrossing and intriguing to watch despite its flaws, with its strongest points being the incredible animation style and the engrossing score. Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman has an off-beat charm to it that feels rather hit or miss.
For the most part, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman stays true to its source material and manages to successfully bring out the tongue-in-cheek nature of Murakami’s work. However, the attempt to combine all these stories into a single sensible one is a feat that Foldes fails to achieve, leaving the audience with a beautiful and visually appealing, but rather hollow rendition of the stories it is an adaptation of.
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