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FILMS / REVIEWS Annecy 2022

Review: Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

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- Pierre Földes succeeds in a captivating adaptation of Haruki Murakami's short stories, finding the ideal balance between narrative subtlety and openness to all audiences

Review: Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

​​"We have no choice: we must face Worm. Whether the outcome is fatal or victorious, no one will ever know, and even if we succeed in defeating him, no one will congratulate us, no one will ever know that such a battle took place under his feet." When a traumatic event shakes our foundations, throwing us into the mirror of our inner darkness, our repressed fears haunted by the ghosts of our weaknesses and unlived lives, "we can still hope that there is life somewhere" and a subterranean passageway to the light.

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It is at the heart of this process of karmic confrontation and rebirth where "what is visible to everyone is not the most important thing" that Pierre Földes has immersed himself in adapting and assembling several short stories by one of the masters of contemporary world literature: the Japanese author Haruki Murakami, an expert in strange territories on the border between realism and magic. A bewitching in-between world of which Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman [+see also:
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, the first feature by the cosmopolitan filmmaker and composer (born in the United States to Hungarian and British parents, and raised in Paris), unveiled in competition at the 41st Annecy Animation Film Festival, succeeds in capturing all the charm of a multi-layered narrative and the unique wavelength of a singular essence.

On the surface, however, everything seems simple. A few days after the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011, the Kyoko-Komura couple disintegrates at an accelerated rate, the former leaving the latter by surprise ("living with you is like living with an air bubble"), leaving him totally stunned, in a daily life floating between emptiness, regrets and memories. For Katagiri, his colleague in the loan department at the Tokyo Security Trust Bank, the situation is not much better: nobody likes the portly 44-year-old bachelor who finds himself on the back foot professionally. But as the media fills the atmosphere with accounts of the devastation the country has suffered, both men see a door open to their perceptions of the world, Komura through a mysterious mission to Hokkaidō (to deliver a small box) and Katagiri with the irruption of a fantastical character (the enormous frog Frog) enlisting him in a cosmic conflict against the forces of chaos in order to save Tokyo, which is threatened with total destruction seven days later...

Nietzsche ("the greatest wisdom is to be afraid of nothing"), John Ford's Fort Apache ("if you could see Indians, it's because they weren't really there"), Conrad ("the real fear is the one man feels when he faces his imagination"), Hemingway ("the real value of our existence is determined not by our victories, but by our defeats"): interpretation keys are scattered throughout Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, but above all the film perfectly holds the course of the pleasures of an exciting and very rich narrative (a scenario in interlocking parts very well constructed by the filmmaker with parallel advances, flashbacks, dreams, "normal" and fantastic world, etc.) and of an animation style accessible to all audiences. Pierre Földes succeeds in his challenge (exciting but far from obvious on paper) to adapt Haruki Murakami while remaining himself.

Produced by the French companies Cinéma Defacto and Miyu Productions and coproduced by their compatriots of Studio MA, Arte France Cinéma and Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Cinéma, Canadian outfits micro_scope and Production l’Unité Centrale, Dutch company Original Picture and Luxemburg outfit Doghouse Films, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman is sold internationally by The Match Factory.

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(Translated from French)

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