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 | , , , ,

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