Taking place in the shadow of the Tokyo’s Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman introduces the interconnecting narratives of Komura, Kyoko and Mr. Katagiri. Despite his commitment to her, Komura (Ryan Bommarito) is left shaken when his wife, Kyoko (Shoshana Wilder) tells him that she’s leaving him. To Kyoko, living with Komura is like ‘living with a cloud’ and she can bear it no longer. This sets the couple off in separate journeys of self-discovery with Komura taking time off work and Kyoko reflecting on a man she once met who offered her a wish. Meanwhile, after a particularly difficult day at work, Mr. Katagari (Marcelo Arroyo) comes home to meet a human-sized frog who pleads for his help in saving Tokyo from a giant worm.
Written and directed by Pierre Foldes, Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman is an intriguing and philosophical piece designed to spark conversation. Rather than lean into traditional storytelling devices, the narrative fuses together a number of character arcs in a dream-like, ethereal narrative. Featuring some truly innovative animation, Willows uses its creative space to open the floor for the impossible. Philosophical frogs, trancelike ventures into the jungle and destructive kaiju worms are all aspects of the film’s mythology, blurring the lines between what is real and what is not.
At the same time, Willows as a film about trying to unearth that same reality. Having spent much of his career creating music, there’s no question that Foldes wanted to imbue a lyrical feel to his film. While the viewer may find themselves wishing for more narrative cohesions, Foldes clearly wants to spend his time sitting amidst the noise of life, asking if there’s any meaning to it all. As a result, Willow feels like a puzzle box just waiting to be unlocked. Whether it’s Komura’s journey, Kyoko’s mysterious wish or Mr. Katagari’s dance with heroism, the most important answers to Foldes’ questions remain elusive. There is an ebb and flow to the storytelling that makes it feel almost like an adventure in jazz, with each story feeding off the next yet never interfering with it either.
To hear our interview with director Pierre Foldes, click here.
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman premiered at TIFF ’22. For more information, click here.