13 January 2014

Futon (布団, 2012)

‘Tis the season to snuggle up warm under a cosy duvet, and Yoriko Mizushiri’s animated short Futon (布団, 2012) explores the sensual aspects of doing just that.  In the West, the term “futon” describes a wooden-framed sofa bed, but in Japan “futon” refers to both the foldable mattress that one sleeps upon (shikibuton/敷き布団) and the duvet (kakebuton/掛け布団). 

The film begins silently with a slow tracking shot to the right.  A woman’s long hair stretches away from her on the floor and she is lying on a Japanese-style futon bed with the duvet pulled up to her forehead.  The camera continues to track down the length of the woman until it reaches her feet sticking out of the duvet.  A hand enters from off-screen right holding a pair of chopsticks.  Slowly, the chopsticks pass through the woman’s feet and just moments before they snatch the duvet to cover the feet, the pulse of the soundtrack begins. 

Using a gentle flow of images in in the abstract or close up / out of context so that one doesn't recognize them at first, Yoshiko Mizushiri takes us on a metaphorical journey through the comforts of sleeping in wrapped in a duvet.  The bed covering is transformed into a pair of lips that are sensuously licked, the tongue then salivating over the thought of strawberry cake.  A sudden close up on percolating coffee  is followed by  scene in which a hand stretches out an arm to an impossible length, suggesting the conflicting desires in the morning to both stay in bed and reach one’s coffee.  A disembodied nose inhales the scent of the coffee mug as it is perched on the duvet. The woman’s foot stretches out to tuck itself under the fish topping of a nigiri-zushi – drawing a visual parallel between the fish blanketing the rice and the women blanketed in bed.  In the next sequence, soy sauce gets dripped into a dipping tray, then is dripped across the screen right and over the nigiri-zushi.  The most striking image is that of the woman hanging off the bottom lip of a sumptuous mouth, her body posed as if she were embracing her covers.  Her hand has just reached out for a slice of sashimi which she flips into the open lips before falling into the lips herself.  This is followed by an amusingly surreal sequence of the woman’s body contorting into all sorts of unusual pretzel shapes before tippy-toeing through whipped cream and strawberries. 

The overall impression is that the comfort of a warm futon is on a sensual par with the enjoyment of a warm mug of coffee or decadently drizzling soy sauce onto one’s sushi.  This mesmerizing film tantalizes all five of the senses in a visual journey that conjures up the smell of coffee, the taste of sushi, the feel of lips against the skin accompanied by the enchanting music of Mari Fukuhara (福原まり).  The colour palette and style have some similarities with the works of Atsushi Wada (learn more here): clean, thin lines and a mostly muted palette.  However, Fukuhara differs significantly from Wada in her use of music and imagery.   As with her earlier films, Fukuhara has developed a unique aesthetic that uses everyday imagery (a woman’s body, cake, sushi, coffee) in extraordinary ways.  The film can be found on the new DVD/Blu-ray L'Animation Indépendante Japonaise, Volume 1 – I highly recommend checking it out!

Yoriko Mizushiri (水尻自子, b. 1984) is a freelance film director who graduated from Joshibi University of Art and Design.  You can follow Mizushiri on tumblr and twitter, or check out her official website shiriproFuton won a number of prizes in Japan including the prestigious Renzo Kinoshita Prize at Hiroshima and the New Face Award at the Japan Media Arts Festival. It has also been a big hit at international festivals, making the short list for Cartoon Brew’s most well liked animated short of 2013 and winning Best of the Festival at LIAF 2013.  The film appears on my Best Japanese Indie Animation Shorts 2013 list.  Mizushiri’s most recent film, Snow Hut (かまくら, 2013), made the Jury Selection at this year’s Japan Media Arts Festival.

Mari Fukuhara's music also appeared on the soundtrack for Mai Tominaga's 2010 feature film Rinco's Restaurant (read my review of the film).  You can order her latest album karakuri here.

Yoriko Mizushiri

Yoriko Mizushiri
Marie Matsunaga
Ikumi Nakamura
Rika Inoue

“Dark End” by Mari Fukuhara from the album “karakuri”
Arranged by Seiji Toda

Catherine Munroe Hotes 2014