Watarase Machi is an extreme part-timer who bounces around a number of part-time jobs on mornings, afternoons, and evenings for 365 days of the year. One day at the Japanese pub where she works, Machi meets a reclusive artist named Yoshito who wants to use her as a model for a painting. Fascinated by Yoshito’s sketches, she begins living with him as they become further involved. Nevertheless, Machi comes to develop an odd feeling for the image of herself on Yoshito’s canvas.
And then she meets an arts writer, Itogawa Yo and ends up conversing with him by parroting what she heard from Yoshito as if it were own thoughts. Yo becomes very interested in Machi and from that day forward she records her conversations with Yoshito and recites them back to Yo on their dates.
Machi would have lived as a different person to Yoshito and Yo each, but on Christmas Eve just before the painting is completed, the situation takes a sudden turn.
Director Nomura Nao produced this mid-length movie to complete her graduation from the Musashino Art University. It looks to throw into relief people’s need to be liked and/or present themselves as something they are not without using any social media characterizations. Most will recognize Machi right away if not the hollow relationships she builds as an affect. Nomura also displays an ability to be figurative in the occasional portrayal of Machi against poorly expressive or expressionless puppets. An appreciator of puppet animation since childhood, she felt “puppet theater” would be an effective expression of how “Machi” is more a persona adapting to its backdrop and thus wouldn’t feel out of place even in a setting without humans. It’s the type of unconventional storytelling someone young like her can risk realizing which sometimes is lost as their careers develop.
Empty competed at at the 2018 Pia Film Festival PFF Award and won the Entertainment Award before going on to other festivals locally. More important to note is Nomura took it upon herself to carry out an independent theatrical release at the arthouse Pore Pore Higashi Nakano theater (with the aid of one of its staff) the winter of that year which was well received and taught her a great deal about the distributing side of filmmaking.
She also revealed in an interview at the time she had already begun work on a new feature being produced through Moosic Lab. As of this writing, her completed movie, Otoko no Yasashisa wa Zenbu Shitagokoro Nandesu-te, was (naturally) part of the 2019 Moosic Lab Festival lineup and garnered its lead the event’s Best Actress award. The 70 minute movie tells with a comedic touch the story of a girl with a naive belief in love and her relationships with the boys who constantly dupe her–or maybe that’s the other way around. Both show an interest by Nomura to illuminate matters surrounding self-image and identity which in this age where they can be, respectively, carefully crafted or stolen may be the true issue of our times.