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Review: Bath House of Whales and Wolf's Calling (Japan Cuts Shorts)

Updated: Aug 28, 2021

The wonderful weirdness of Labyrinth of Cinema left me feeling a bit mentally exhausted, so I decided to give myself a break by sampling Japan Cuts’ extensive selection of short films.

  1. Bath House of Whales: Adopting an unconventional “paint-on-glass” style of animation, this cinematic tone poem packs a whole lot of storytelling into its seven-minute running time. Told from the perspective of a young girl visiting the titular bath house with her mother, it beautifully conveys both the quiet, familiar rhythms of everyday life and the enormity of new experiences. Brief but far from insubstantial, I greatly admired this movie’s handcrafted quality (the immense effort that went into the production is literally visible to the naked eye, right down to the tiniest brushstroke).

  2. Wolf’s Calling: Bath House of Whales’ louder and more aggressive antithesis, this narratively minimalistic period piece is an exercise in atmosphere and suspense. Director Toshiaki Toyoda clearly learned two lessons from Sergio Leone: first, that intrigue builds anticipation; and second, that rhythm is just as important to the story as plot, if not more so. The framing, camera movement, music (composed by a group called the Seppuku Pistols, who also star), sound design, and reserved performances combine to create an unforgettable sensual experience.

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