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Interview Hirokazu Kore-eda Air Doll


Interview: Hirokazu Kore-eda (Air Doll)

Interview: Hirokazu Kore-eda (Air Doll)

Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda returns to a thematic subject matter he knows well: loneliness and emptiness. This time out, he does so via the point of view of an inflatable sex toy and once again, Kore-eda manages to make compelling observation, grafting an original essay that is both warm and fuzzy, but tragic, contemporary and extreme — in many regards it’s a portrait full of heart and humor that will resonate with many.

It’s the Pinocchio-like tale of an air doll used for sexual pleasure by a lonely man, and then comes to life, indexes what makes humans human and falls for a video store clerk. Korean actress Bae Doona is pitch perfect as the air doll, she physically and emotionally gets into character which makes for a rich and satisfying observation about the human condition. To give enough substance to such an exaggerated premise is no easy task, but a talent such as Kore-eda makes it work with ease. SFIFF showcased the Cannes preemed Air Doll. Editor’s note: This was originally published May 3rd, 2010.

Hirokazu Kore-eda

Interview Hirokazu Koreeda

Yama Rahimi: What was the the genesis of this project?
Hirokazu Kore-eda: The start of this film was 10 years ago when I first read the Manga comic story of this and there was one particular scene that really struck me. It was the plastic doll working at the video store and she cuts her arm on a nail and collapses onto the floor with the air deflating. The man working with her tapes her arm and blows air into her. I thought that was a very erotic scene. I had not thought of putting sex scenes into my films but I thought in this way I could depict a very erotic scene without to having the man and the woman be naked which could be done nicely. That was the start of the film.

Rahimi: I loved the idea of using a doll as a sex object which is usually how women are used. Was it intentionally to show the objectification of women through a doll?
Kore-eda: There are several men in the film that appear to use the doll as a sex object. However the man, Hideo, who lives with the doll reflects several men I met during the research who live with the plastic dolls. They don’t see them just as sex objects. They might take them to the park, they make meals for them if the dolls don’t eat so they meals together as a way to fill their own loneliness or emptiness. Even more so they interact with the dolls more than they do with other people. So that’s another aspect I wanted to show.

Rahimi: The theme of loneliness and emptiness seems a byproduct of technology in the modern world that keeps people from interacting with each other in comparison to the third world where people live without the comforts of technology but have a shorter life because of the harsher conditions. What are your thoughts about that?
Kore-eda: As I developed the script I put people who doubt their own originality, they feel they are substitute themselves. Those kind of people are scattered around Tokyo. In fact Tokyo is full of those types of people. Because everything has become convenient in our modern lives, you really don’t need to interact deeply with other people in order to live or survive but that means they are not fulfilled and suffering. These are people around me and I put those in the story as well.

Hirokazu Kore-eda Air Doll Review
Rahimi: What are the films or filmmakers who have inspired you to become one in your formative years?
Kore-eda: There are many but Truffaut, Fellini and Rosselini. Ken Loach and Hou-Hsiao Hsien inspired me after I became a filmmaker. In my first year at the University, I went to see Fellini’s “La Strada” and “Nights of Cabiria” as a double feature. Of course I have seen and loved films before that but it was the first time I became aware of the director being there. I felt the director was looking at Giulietta Masina and became aware of the director’s gaze. I thought making a film is gazing or looking at something.

Rahimi: The reason I’m asking is because one of the main setting is the video store and there are references to other films and I wanted to know if they are your favorite films.
Kore-eda: They are all my favorite movies.

Rahimi: What were the challenges of making a film about an air doll? How did you create a fully developed character
Kore-eda: This doll is a cheap doll. So she has an inferiority complex because she’s translucent and has plastic lines she wants to hide. Now the dolls are more developed and expensive made out of silicone, so they have more weight which is closer to human feeling and touch. She has complexes that an adolescent girl might have whether her nose is too big or not high enough. Those are feelings she develops when she has a soul.

Hirokazu Kore-eda Air Doll Review
Rahimi: As far as the main actress goes, was it difficult to find a Japanese actress or did you want to work with that particular Korean actress?
Kore-eda: I’m a great fan of Bae Doona and always wanted to work with her. I know this was a difficult role but the language wouldn’t be a problem for her. So I gave the offer to her as my first choice. When I think of it now, I don’t think any of the Japanese actress we have could have done the role, so she’s the only one.

Rahimi: What’s next for you?
Kore-eda: I’m planning to shoot a film in summer with children, maybe five or six children. The story will be that a new bullet train will come to their town for the first time. They will go and see it that’s all I have no. I haven’t written the script now. Once I cast the children, then I will get more ideas from them. Once again it’s an interactive process. Editor’s note: The film in question would become 2011’s I Wish.'s award guru Yama Rahimi is a San Francisco-based Afghan-American artist and filmmaker. Apart from being a contributing special feature writer for the site, he directed the short films Object of Affection ('03), Chori Foroosh ('06) and the feature length documentary film Afghanistan ('10). His top three of 2019 include: Bong Joon-ho's Parasite, Todd Phillips' Joker and Robert Eggers' The Lighthouse.

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