Two eccentric, reclusive sisters grew old in a house for which their lifelong project was to bring found objects home to fill up every corner of the interior, the exterior including the roof, & the surrounding grounds. They don't bring home just anything; they are conoisseurs of junk & pick carefully. But sufficient years have passed that very little of the house is even visible through their "collection."
Throughout the strange, satiric, & quite beautiful Wool 100% (2006), these women exhibit a refined system of gathering objects & recording their discoveries in illustrated notebooks. Their obsession rules their lives, but they seem more or less happy.
The elderly sisters are both played by great actresses. Ume is played by Kyoko Kishida (1930-2006) in her final film role. She had a very long acting career as one of the country's top stars, best known in the west for her pivotal performance in The Woman of the Dunes (Suna no onna, 1964) & as the nurse in The Face of Another (Tanin no kao, 1966), & pretty much guaranteed to be a key attribute to anything she's in.
The other sister, Kame, is played by Kazuko Yoshiyuki (b. 1935), daughter of well-known experimental novelist Eisuke Yoshiyuki (1906-1940). When young she starred in a lot of great chambara swordplay films but deserves eternal recognition for her incredible performance in Nagisa Oshima's erotic art-horror classic The Empire of Passion (Ai no boro, 1978).
One day they find beautiful bright red wool yarn & bring it home, arrange it tidily in piles of balls, & record the discovery in their artistic, illustrated diaries of things found. By mysterious means the red yarn leads a feral child to them, & she knits for herself a bizarre, homely crimson garment.
Played impressively by Ayu Kitaura who was only about thirteen, this is by no means a normal child. She's some kind of spirit associated with the red yarn. She takes to haunting the sisters' home & their lives. She knits, yells like a demonic spirit, messes up their cluttered but neatly arranged rooms, disrupting most horribly every aspect of their existence.
Every time she finishes knitting her red garment, she begins screaming that she has to knit it again, thus unravels the yarn to begin the knitting from scratch.
The sisters name her Knit-Again & try to go about their lives in their usual manner, though Knit-Again makes it difficult. The objects gathered have a sort of consciousness of their own, & they love the sisters who salvaged them. The objects try to protect the sisters. This leads to all-out war between Knit-Again & the objects, as the yarn-spirit-girl takes to breaking the sisters' favorite things.
Weird & annoying & destructive though Knit-Again can be, the sisters are fond of her. They see clues that convince them she's somehow, by some means, the spirit of their own mother.
Since she can't get along with the objects, the sisters begin to clear out the junk of their lifelong gatherings, until the house is empty of all excesses & exaggerations. They come bit by bit to attend exclusively to the needs of Knit-Again.
The manner by which the film measures the horror of apparent possession by the spirit & the sisters' twisted delight of having Knit-Again as family, is edgily maintained in balance. Toward the end, the tale becomes increasingly surreal as flashbacks to the sisters' childhood & youth strives indistinctly to explain how the girl of the red wool came to exist, never so pat in explanation as to destroy the mystery.
Wool 100% is a marvelously unique fantasy, thoroughly original & effective, with a bit of stop-motion animation lending an additional colorful note. As a Japan film fan, I'm never surprised how great this cinema can be, but Wool 100% exceeded my high expectation & experience with Japanese films. For this unaggressive degree of weirdness & beauty, I can't think of another film quite its equal since To Sleep So As To Dream (Yume miruyoni nemuritai, 1986).
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