Two Haruki Murakami Stories Adapted into Short Films: Watch Attack on a Bakery (1982) and A Girl, She Is 100% (1983)

At this year’s Cannes Film Fes­ti­val, the Award for Best Screen­play went to Ryusuke Ham­aguchi’s Dri­ve My Car, an adap­ta­tion of a sto­ry by Haru­ki Muraka­mi. So did FIPRESCI Prize, the Prize of the Ecu­meni­cal Jury, and no small amount of crit­i­cal acclaim, sug­gest­ing that the code for trans­lat­ing Muraka­mi onto the screen might final­ly have been cracked. Every now and again over the past forty years, a bold film­mak­er has tak­en on the chal­lenge of turn­ing a work of that most world-famous Japan­ese nov­el­ist into a fea­ture. But until recent­ly, the results have for the most part not been received as espe­cial­ly con­se­quen­tial in and of them­selves.

In gen­er­al, short fic­tion tends to pro­duce more sat­is­fy­ing adap­ta­tions than full-fledged nov­els, and Murakami’s work seems not to be an excep­tion (as under­scored a few years ago by Kore­an auteur Lee Chang-dong’s Burn­ing). Ham­aguchi’s film spins some 40 pages into a run­ning time of near­ly three hours, doing the oppo­site of what oth­er Japan­ese film­mak­ers have done with Murakami’s short sto­ries. In 1982, Nao­to Yamakawa made one of them into Attack on a Bak­ery, a short film run­ning less than twen­ty min­utes; the fol­low­ing year, he made anoth­er into the even short­er A Girl, She is 100%, run­ning less than fif­teen. Today Muraka­mi fans every­where can watch them both on Youtube, com­plete with Eng­lish sub­ti­tles.

The mate­r­i­al will feel famil­iar to Eng­lish-lan­guage Muraka­mi read­ers. A main char­ac­ter of the sto­ry “The Sec­ond Bak­ery Attack” rem­i­nisces about a rob­bery he attempt­ed as a hun­gry young man that went com­i­cal­ly off the rails, in a man­ner sim­i­lar to the one in Yamakawa’s first short. (In 2010 “The Sec­ond Bak­ery Attack,” where­in the now-mar­ried nar­ra­tor robs a fast-food joint with his new bride, itself became a short film direct­ed by Car­los Cuarón, broth­er of Alfon­so.) Though “The Bak­ery Attack” has nev­er been offi­cial­ly pub­lished in Eng­lish, “On See­ing the 100% Per­fect Girl One Beau­ti­ful April Morn­ing” has, and it now stands as one of Murakami’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive short works in that lan­guage; it also, in the orig­i­nal, pro­vides the basis for A Girl, She Is 100%.

“She doesn’t stand out in any way,” Murakami’s nar­ra­tor says of the tit­u­lar fig­ure. “Her clothes are noth­ing spe­cial. The back of her hair is still bent out of shape from sleep. She isn’t young, either — must be near thir­ty, not even close to a ‘girl,’ prop­er­ly speak­ing. But still, I know from fifty yards away: She’s the 100% per­fect girl for me.” Yamakawa dra­ma­tizes a sim­i­lar fleet­ing encounter and the roman­tic spec­u­la­tions that res­onate in the man’s mind. Like the half-baked philo­soph­i­cal and polit­i­cal con­vic­tions of the would-be rob­bers, these inspire the direc­tor to the kind of visu­al and for­mal inven­tive­ness one would expect giv­en his back­ground in Godard and Scors­ese schol­ar­ship. But the only film­mak­er name-checked is Woody Allen, which fans will rec­og­nize as a char­ac­ter­is­tic Muraka­mi ref­er­ence. So as are the inclu­sions of Wag­n­er, D.H. Lawrence, jazz music — and of course, an unex­pect­ed cat.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Read 12 Sto­ries By Haru­ki Muraka­mi Free Online

Dis­cov­er Haru­ki Murakami’s Adver­to­r­i­al Short Sto­ries: Rare Short-Short Fic­tion from the 1980s

Haru­ki Murakami’s Pas­sion for Jazz: Dis­cov­er the Novelist’s Jazz Playlist, Jazz Essay & Jazz Bar

A 3,350-Song Playlist of Music from Haru­ki Murakami’s Per­son­al Record Col­lec­tion

Mem­o­ran­da: Haru­ki Murakami’s World Recre­at­ed as a Clas­sic Adven­ture Video Game

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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