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Hirokazu Kore-eda Air Doll Review

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Air Doll | Review

Air Doll | Review

There is No Substitute: Kore-eda Digs into Our Rubber Soul with Fantasy Flick

Hirokazu Kore-eda Air Doll ReviewReinterpreting the notion of what it is to truly be living and…breathing, Hirokazu Kore-eda takes on the less colorful, shallow, exploitative aspects in humanity and combines it with the innocence and warmth derived from authentic human interaction. Working from an absurd premise, the Japanese filmmaker might not be able to substantially add more to the narrative core, but Air Doll never wanes away from the central themes of isolation and alienation, something in which the filmmaker has obsessively visited in his previous films. This seventh fiction feature is a pleasant oddity, crisply photographed and expertly perfumed by lead actress Doona, who is spot on with her physicality and demeanor.

Based on a graphic manga novel The Pneumatic Figure Of A Girl, this clings onto the basic premise that common social illness is brought about by our ineptitude to truly connect with others. The city of Tokyo, like any big city really, is a model example of just that. The point of view is lead not by the one with the loner existence, but by the one who needs inflating and who shares strong similitudes to that of fairy-tale legend Pinocchio.

Hirokazu Kore-eda Air Doll Review
The film’s protagonist, an inflatable sex doll, appropriates some of the qualities she finds in human beings at her first place of employment: a video store. Serving as the perfect backdrop to underline the emotional imbalance of the characters, with tons of titles on display, the store acts as a museum, an encyclopedia for the history of cinema and also serves as a beginner’s guide to the wide range of human emotions. The X-rated section of the same store reinforces the notion of a false sense of intimacy which is further replicated and contested in a pair of sharp, radically vivid ‘love-making’ sequences.

Hirokazu Kore-eda Air Doll Review

Cinematographer Mark Lee provides the picture with a crisp looking frame, there is an almost helium balloon movement of the camera and the peculiar manner in which it enters a frame is hypnotic without bringing attention to itself. An habitual of oddball roles, Doona is lovely to watch in her scenes where plastic becomes flesh and vice-versa.

Far from being deflated, Air Doll remains an intentional one note affair, but the stylistic treatment of the charming and the less than charming elements; sex dolls have a more specific purpose than a change of outfits and other qualities that were whimsically detailed in Lars and the Real Girl. Kore-eda punctuates his observations on loneliness and solitude with ideas that the human spirit is disposable, human beings are replaceable and women, in some circles are second class citizens, thus creating a mix that assures that it is art-house patrons who’ll embrace the peculiar film the most.

Reviewed on May 14th at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival – Un Certain Regard Section. 126 Mins.

★★★/☆☆☆☆☆

Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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