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