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The Witches of the Orient(Les Sorcières de l’Orient)

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭   Read critic reviews

France

2021

1h 40m

Director Julien Faraut

Starring

Genre Documentary

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Now in their 70s, these former Japanese women’s volleyball players used to be known as the ‘Witches of the Orient’. Originally formed as a casual workers’ team, the squad became a fierce force in competitive volleyball thanks to a ruthless coach, and went on to have a record-breaking winning streak at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

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78

Austin Chronicle by Josh Kupecki

As he did with his previous doc, 2018’s John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection, Faraut finds and obsesses over the rhythm of bodies in motion, using repetition and cross-cuts of the team’s training footage and gameplay with anime sequences and textile manufacturing. These collisions, set to music from Portishead and Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle, are the heart of Witches, hypnotic patterns of serene velocity.
75

Slant Magazine by Mark Hanson

The film’s fanciful archival montages shrewdly demonstrate the ways in which memory and art seamlessly combine to document reality.
80

The Guardian by Phuong Le

By pairing real-life events with their animated interpretations, the film not only offers a fresh approach to documentary style but also draws out the tension between reality and artifice, private and public memory.
80

Los Angeles Times by Robert Abele

Fusing exquisitely shot color 16mm footage from 1964 of the team’s training sessions, drone-like music and splices of animation, we get a delirious sense of what these committed women endured six out of seven days a week.
80

The New York Times by Teo Bugbee

If the team was derided by their prejudiced (and defeated) foes in the moment of their success, this documentary elegantly restores the glow of legend, saving the champions the trouble of having to explain their heroism in words.