A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 100 – Wool 100%

Wool 100% – June 8th, 2010

This is one of the few movies we’ve bought on the recommendation of someone else since starting this project. We think of so many titles on our own, we don’t really need many suggestions of other stuff. But we couldn’t resist this. And tonight, for our 100th movie, we are watching a 100 minute long film with 100 in the title. We thought it was somewhat fitting. My boss recommended this after I told her about Russian Ark and we started talking about weird movies. “You’ve got to see this one,” she told me. “It’s this Japanese movie about these two sisters who collect trash and live in this huge house full of junk and one day they find a mess of red yarn and take it home and this girl shows up and starts knitting it.” And then she showed me the trailer on YouTube. So thank you to my boss, J (not the same J who’s done a review for us though), for this.

Okay, so imagine a cross between the Collyer brothers and the Beales, but in Japan, and then bring on the surrealism. So Ume and Kame, the sisters, are known around town for collecting things from the trash. The movie begins with a little background in the form of a folk tale about how they love everything they take home and the things they take home love them too and take care of them and watch over them in their big mansion full of stuff. They also document each find in a sketch book, drawing a picture of it and labeling it. And on the morning when the movie begins, awoken by a group of children singing (and their teacher on an accordion), they go out and find a plastic doll, a salon hair dryer, and a basket full of balls of roughly spun red wool. They bring the wool home, but it trails behind them, caught on nails and bushes and wound through the streets. And that night, someone follows it, gathering it in her arms and tracking it back to the house.

The sisters awaken in the middle of the night, hearing something downstairs. They go down to check it out and to the sounds of what I believe is a bass, some cellos, tubas, maybe a sousaphone? Lots of deep horns and strings anyhow. They find Aminaoshi (“Knit-Again”), who has knitted herself a sweater from the red yarn. She pulls it on, stands up, says “knit again” and falls asleep, knitting needles still in her hands. She sleeps on their table and breakfast is eaten around her, this mysterious girl in the bright red sweater, as if she wasn’t there, but oh, she makes everything so awkward! Her very existence ruins their whole routine, from breakfast to their attempts to find new treasures. And then she trashes their kitchen and shows up screaming about how she has to knit something all over again. And when I say screaming? I mean multi-tonal screams in several voices, echoing through the house. And she doesn’t fucking stop until she’s knitting. And when she finishes? She stops and screams and starts over, unraveling her sweater and knitting it into a new one.

And then the house starts fighting back at her, because she’s disturbing the sisters, you see. And she fights back against it, destroying things the sisters love. They make her leave, and she comes back. She mucks with the doll they found at the beginning and stabs its eyes with her knitting needles then the sisters hallucinate that she’s pregnant and then there’s an interlude with a dollhouse. And then another one in the sketchbook, with a sort of flip book animation of a sketched Aminaoshi breaking the sketches of the treasures and then swimming and running and there’s a strange mysterious male shadow figure that looms over the end of it. And oddly, the pregnancy and the knitting and the man all end up making sense. Well, a little sense.

Ume and Kame start to throw things away, spurred on by Aminaoshi’s destruction. They uncover a dollhouse they’d thought they threw away, and it’s the dollhouse from earlier. The dolls inside are Ume and Kame as girls, and so we finally get some semi-coherent story. From what we’re told through the dollhouse, Ume and Kame lived with their mother in the mansion when they were small and their mother tells them they’ll all live there forever together. Except then she’s pregnant. And then she’s going away. Then we’re back to the sisters as older women and they’re gleefully destroying their mountains of junk in their yard. Aminaoshi is upstairs in the now-neater house, but the house has one more weapon: the television. Which comes to life and starts trying to eat the yarn. Aminaoshi fights it, then disappears, and we get the rest of the story. Their mother died, leaving them alone in their house. And having only ever been told “When you knit, a baby will come,” they agree to knit babies for each other. A young man comes and takes away the dollhouse and, thinking that knitting is the path to babies, they knit instead of talking to him. Of course neither gets pregnant.

We return to the older sisters to find that they’ve knit a sweater for Aminaoshi, which they put on her when they find her, and all would seem to be well. But of course she’s not happy and slips away in the night, telling them that they will have to knit again. She burns the sketch book and the house and unravels the sweater, leading the sisters off away from their old life. And then it’s over.

There’s very little dialogue in this. Aminaoshi does her screaming and the sisters talk every so often, but so much more of the movie is told through action and visual and the sousaphone (I have no idea if that’s what it really is but I like the word ‘sousaphone’) I feel like I have a lot to say about the movie, but I’ve spent so much space just explaining what goes on on screen. It’s not like it’s an easy movie to sum up. Obviously it’s all very symbolic and there’s a lot of meaning inherent in the knitting and the collecting and Aminaoshi and her endless repetition and her destructive tendencies and the dollhouse and the animated objects in the house. She seems to be both their mother and their daughter in one, a child with temper tantrums and a wise old soul, knowing that the house isn’t as it should be. That the sisters aren’t as they should be. She doesn’t entirely know her own purpose. And the sisters themselves have hidden the memory of their mother and their ignorance behind walls of things people threw away, like the little girls threw the mother doll out the window of the dollhouse. Until this wool spirit shows up to disrupt their life and make them create something new. This movie made me cry, even with all its strangeness and surreal moving blankets and dolls. It has true emotional impact embedded deep into its story.

Maybe some time I’ll revisit this. It deserves more, but it’s so bizarre it’s difficult to parse in one sitting. If I can stand Aminaoshi’s screaming, I’ll watch it again some time and hopefully have more to say.

June 8, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Wool 100%

June 8, 2010

Wool 100%

For our one hundredth movie we review a strange little fairy tale from Japan – Wool 100%. This was recommended to us by one of Amanda’s co-workers as one of the most peculiar movies she had ever seen, and we find it hard to turn down a chance to watch a strange movie we’ve never heard of. It’s our first time watching this – and it’s subtitled – so this will be a very hard one to review.

The cute little animated into to this movie tells us that it will be the story of two sisters who live in a big mansion. Every day they go out into the village and gather things that have been abandoned. And so well do they care for all the abandoned things they have collected that the collected items love and protect them in return. Once the animated introduction is over the movie begins in earnest with a series of tracking shots through the piles of garbage and past all the things they’ve collected. This shot is accompanied by a children’s song and accordion. It well establishes the mood and feel of the movie we’re about to embark upon. Peculiar and whimsical. The walk through of the sister’s home also makes it clear that they are not simply trash-pickers or collectors. Everything is files away. It’s all very neat and orderly. Although cluttered.

I should mention that in the scene that introduces the two sisters and their daily routine they are virtually identical, but differentiated from each other slightly. Although they have the same short gray hair and similar mannerisms one of them wears a sweater and eats a western-style breakfast of tomatoes, eggs, milk and toast while the other wears a kimono and eats a more traditionally Japanese breakfast. I’m not sure if this is meant to have some significance in the plot of the movie. It’s just an observation.

While out trashpicking one day the two sisters find a quantity of red yarn. They bring it home with their other new treasures and catalog it in their book of found items, and then the movie starts to get strange, A strange girl appears in their house knitting the yard into a rough shirt. The only thing she ever says, in a loud singsong yell, is “Damn! I’ll have to knit it all over again!” I’m pretty sure she’s some kind of Oni. Maybe the yarn is possessed? Or maybe she’s a spirit that is invading the house. Certainly the inanimate objects in the house do seem to attempt to drive Knit-Again out of the house. Are they trying to defend the sisters, of preserve themselves? Knit-Again is a fairly destructive force in their well-ordered but lonely world.

But wait! It gets stranger still. Through some exposition with a doll house it transpires that the Oni might be somehow related to the sisters’ long lost mother. And soon they begin making her over in their own image – giving her their own hairdo. An then she’s gone, and the movie becomes a flashback – I think – about what happened to the mother and why the sisters started collecting.

Another thing worth mentioning is the peculiar music throughout the movie. There are a lot of scenes of inanimate objects attacking Knit-Again. These scenes (and even a very cool animated bit in the middle of the film) could have been terrifying, but the music is a sort of cheerful saxophone and tuba band that lets you know it’s all just strangeness – it’s okay that these things are happening. There’s something disarmingly childlike about the two elderly sisters. They’re ready with a laugh and a smile and have a lot of love for all this junk they have. But they also take a sort of delight in freeing themselves from the junk with Knit-Again’s help.

Wow. I’m not sure what I just watched. Something about achieving freedom from your past maybe? I was braced (based on the previews) for something slightly more haunting – but in reality this a frolicsome and bizarre thing. It’s not going to make sense – and I think that’s okay too. It’s one of those strange works of art that acts somewhat as a mirror for yourself – letting you read what you’d like within it. It’s definitely a fairy tale. And a wonderfully off the wall piece of experimental film making. I’d recommend it for anybody who enjoys the off kilter and odd. It’s avant garde and weird, but it’s also playful and cheerful. It has to do with childhood, loss, loneliness and childbirth. I think it would be a good companion piece to Eraserhead – or maybe a good follow up to soothe the nerves afterwords. David Lynch only wishes he were this odd.

June 8, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | 2 Comments