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June 27, 2023

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

blind willow.jpeg

Pierre Foldes - 2022
Zeitgeist Films R1 DVD

While some of Pierre Foldes' artistic choices may be questioned, animation may be the best way to render Haruki Murakami on film. Not all of Murakami's work, but in several of his novels and stories the main character goes on a journey that is dreamlike. Literal images would do a disservice to the source material. The opening shots here are of a man falling down some kind of deep, black hole into a dark, underground pathway. Several of Murakami's stories resemble Alice in Wonderland, but with a contemporary Japanese man falling down the rabbit hole.

Foldes' film takes a couple of Murakami's short stories and elements from others into crafting a feature length film. The film takes place mostly in Tokyo following the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Reports of the damage and other after-effects are in the background as televised reports. The two main narrative threads in the film are from the collection, After the Quake, inspired by the 1995 Kobe earthquake. While Murakami has written several pieces in response to both natural and man-made disasters in Japan, I am not clear as to why Foldes chose to update the film's story. Only a few fragments from the title short story, about a man and his young cousin, are part of the film. The film primarily is based on "UFO in Kushiro" and "Super-Frog Saves Tokyo". The first story is mostly about the disintegration of a couple's marriage following the earthquake. The second has a middle-aged banker who is enlisted by a six-foot frog to save Tokyo from a worm that would cause an earthquake.

While I have read several of Murakami's novels, I have not read any of the source short stories used for Foldes film. It is not a stretch to see the stories as placing their various senses of displacement, both pychological and geographic against the very real displacement of the thousands of victims of the earthquake and tsunami. Where animation succeeds in a visual representation of Murakami's writing is the the more dreamlike imagery. The close-up of an ear morphs into the outline of a nude woman. Landscapes, cityscapes and rooms are temporary spaces of shape and color. Where a giant, talking frog is imagined, passengers on a commuter train are rendered as ghostly apparitions. It is the smaller moments that work best for me. I also question the narrative structure of the film for trying to integrate the two main short stories rather than presenting them as separate pieces. What is faithful to the source is there is always a search for a definitive truth or answer, but for Murakami, some things remain unknowable.

As mentioned previously, though updated, Foldes film takes place in Japan with Japanese characters. The DVD comes with two language options - the original French as well as English. There are also three very short extras with Foldes discussing how the film was made, with shots of some of the preliminary sketches and artwork, plus shots of the live action filming used for reference footage.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at June 27, 2023 06:56 AM