Good fantasy films are hard to come by. Not many films are able to bring new and exciting concepts that spark people's imagination. We are often left with elves, wizards, orcs and magic. Common elements of the fantasy genre no doubt, but when some people are better at speaking orc language than they are at fixing a tire, it's time to try something new.
Wool 100% is not one of those films. It's fresh, quirky and totally unique. It's also part animation and puppetry.
Tominaga's film feels like a modern fairytale. While it honors the concept of a fairytale, it replaces the traditional elements with something new and fresh. The basic story follows two old sisters who live in a house of garbage. Every day, they go out to collect more junk, which they treasure and document in a picture book. When they run into a basket of red wool, their life is thrown upside down as they introduce the ever-knitting girl into their house.
Although folklore differs a lot between the East and the West, I think Wool 100% takes most of its inspiration from the creative minds of the makers of the film (although that's just my guess of course). In any case, I'm always glad when a film like this comes along, especially when it's Japanese. They have a knack for making films like these.
What I didn't except was that the execution would be lacking a bit. Although the story calls for a visual feast, the first half of the film is pretty low-key. The designs and sets are lush but are filmed in a rather dull and disappointing hue. The quality does vary between scenes, but the overall impression is that of a low-budget Japanese drama.
There is a turning point halfway the film, where the intentions of Tominaga become clear, but I still feel she could have done a better job with the first half. The film warps back in time and delves into the past of the two old ladies. It does this through some pretty special animation sequences and even some lengthy puppet animation scenes. A pretty interesting twist that fits the story and the idea behind it like a charm.
It needs some getting used to, but the different forms of film making flow together really well. Tominaga also provides the film with a pretty weird, jazzy and bombastic soundtrack and some pretty creepy/annoying but effective voice effects. Whenever the girl in the red sweater starts crying, it's time to lower the volume on your stereo (check the trailer).
In the end, Wool 100% could have been a better film. The visuals could've used some more attention and while the soundtrack is weird and unique, it's not truly fulfilling. On the other hand, Tominaga created something truly special that will be hard to match. It makes that this film leaves a pretty weird taste after watching it. I'm not 100% convinced, but on the other hand it's one of the most intriguing and genius things I've seen in a fantasy film in a long time.
Wool 100% is a film that you just have to see. You might not like it, but at the least it's an experience worth having. I just hope Tominaga gets a bigger budget and a better cinematographer next time.