Director Toshiaki Toyoda’s new narrative shortfilm, Wolf’s Calling, clocks in at sixteen minutes, but covers an intriguing and vast bit of ground for its simplistic message, with music as its backdrop.
The short, part of Japan Cuts for the Narrative Shorts line-up, opens with a woman (Miu) finding a gun wrapped up in a cloth somewhere in her attic. Standing for a moment to gaze at the weapon, the movie then segways back to fedual Japan where we meet a group of samurai gathering at a temple.
For the remainder of the sequence, one samurai (Kiyohiko Shibukawa) scales to the temple atop a long stairway. He convenes together with three other samurai, played by Tadanobu Asano, Kengo Kora and Tatsuya Nakamura, followed by the arrival of twenty farmers, played by punk band Seppuku Pistols, who also wrote and performed the soundtrack.
Soon, all the men take battle formations with the samurai at the front line. Each man pulls out a sword or hoists a rifle or a farming tool, while the samurai from the first shot pulls out a hand gun – the same gun our actress reveals at the top.
The suggestive ending, with our actress sitting in front of her home with the old, rusty gun in hand, feels open-ended in a sense; as an American, I have my own ideals on firearms, and so I consider a project like Wolf’s Calling, a short, spiritual essay on displicine, with respect to Japanese identity, and I say this because post-credits scene definitely brings a little more to film’s aesthetic significance.
According to the programming, Toyoda’s April 2019 arrest for “unlawful possession of a handgun (which was actually a familial keepsake)” and subsequent release without charge, was the basis for this, his response to the arrest. That he chose the Seppuku Pistols for the film’s composers also says something about Toyoda’s creative intent, invariably touching on something deeper in his acuity for the story. That it bares the same name as the 2018 novel with an almost familiar poetic certainty to its story is also interesting, in terms of its marketability to westerners.
At the end of the day though, the real star of the short is the music. Per the director’s note which reads “Turn up the volume!” is perhaps the best advice you could take to enjoy for this audibly stimulating, contemplative, spiritual feudal Japanese musical play.
Screened online for the Japan Cuts Film Festival – Virtual Edition.