The stories of Haruki Murakami, beguiling existential meditations flecked with surrealism, seem suited to the stylized language of animation. Yet, to our knowledge, none of the Japanese author’s works have been adapted in the medium — until now.
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman is a retelling of several of Murakami’s short stories (many of which are published in the book of the same name). The production has little to do with Japan: written and directed by Pierre Földes, the feature is being produced in France, by Cinéma Defacto and Miyu Productions. Watch the trailer, which Cartoon Brew is exclusively launching, and read the synopsis below:
A lost cat, a voluble giant toad and a tsunami help an unambitious salesman, his frustrated wife and a schizophrenic accountant save Tokyo from an earthquake and find meaning in their lives.
Catapulted into the limelight by his 1987 novel Norwegian Wood, Murakami has since sold millions of books in translation. Several have inspired live-action adaptations, most recently the acclaimed Korean feature Burning (which is based on Murakami’s short story “Barn Burning”). The author is often mooted as a possible Nobel laureate. Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, a collection of 24 short stories written between 1980 and 2005, was published in English in 2006.
This animated adaptation is Földes’s first feature, but the director is no stranger to animation. He was born in the U.S. — his father was the renowned experimental animator Peter Foldes — and raised in France, where he established himself as a composer and painter before moving into filmmaking. His animated shorts include Mikrodramas and Coffee and Bananas.
Földes described the genesis of the film to French animation magazine Blink Blank. He explains that he initially sought Murakami’s permission to adapt one of his novels, but the author declined, offering his short stories instead. Földes chose a number of stories, intending to adapt them sequentially as an anthology film. But then, he says,
It was only later, while I was reworking my script, that I began to interpret characters from different short stories as multiple facets of the same characters, at different points in their lives. I like to think of my life so far as a series of short stories. And thus, little by little, the idea came to me to merge the stories and characters, and combine them in a shared chronology.
Citing live-action cinema as a key influence, Földes is integrating techniques from the medium into his pipeline. The producers describe the film’s approach as “a hybrid animation technique ‘guided’ by several elements: a live-action shoot, 3d models of heads, and a classic layout.”
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman is due to be completed in the first half of 2022. International sales are handled by Germany’s The Match Factory. The budget is around €6.0 (USD$7.1) million.
The film is co-produced by Studio Ma, Arte France Cinema, Auvergne-Rhône-Mapes Cinema (France), Micro_Scope (Canada), Unité Centrale (Canada), Doghouse Films (Luxembourg), An Original Picture (Netherlands), and Proton Cinema (Hungary). Finance partners are CNC, Ile-de-France region, Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, Sud region, Procirep and l’Angoa, Cinemage, Cineventure, Cine+, Eurimages, Média-Europe Creative, Cineaxe, Film Fund Luxembourg, Netherlands Film Fund, SODEC, Telefilm Canada, and Harold Greenberg Fund.
Check out more stills below: