Saturday, 6 June 2020

Air Doll

So taken was I with Shoplifters last year, I decided to try another of director Hirokazu Koreeda's earlier films. I tracked down this 2009 Japanese arthouse outing which is a sort of erotic, fantasy-drama having a stab at making meaningful observations about the human experience, tragic pointlessness, loneliness, isolation and how we're all hollow, shallow and empty. Like a blow-up doll. An Air Doll.

The beautiful Doona Bae (Cloud Atlas, The Host) plays Nozomi. At the start, a lifeless companion/sex doll owned by an incompetent waiter in a local cafe in Osaka. One day when he goes off to work she comes to life. Not only that, her body becomes 'real' instead of plastic. She looks outside, gets dressed and decides to found out what's out there. She stumbles around and eventually enters a DVD Rental Shop, where they seem to give her a job! Useless though as she is, she is pretty so they keep her on.

She learns about her surroundings and life in general from several people she bumps into during her days out and about whilst her owner is at work. Before he gets home, she returns to the position she was in when he went off in the morning and strangely, he doesn't seem to realise that she isn't plastic any more! Oh well, it is a fantasy!

She soon starts to learn that the 'real' people around her are as hollow and empty her. The sadness of having 'found a heart' drags her down and in her state of unhappiness she looks for the person who originally made her in order to make her 'real' as well. Yes, of course - it's Pinocchio! Unlike the Disney character however, things turn dark and sinister, the reflections of another world and not a twee Hollywood one.

There's plenty of nudity and emotionless sex but when she finds the guy she wants to be with, some odd experimental stuff relating to purposeful deflation, and the climax of re-inflation! Use your imagination there!

References to equally hollow objects aplenty, from a child's doll and shop mannequin to a street statue and bottles with balls trapped inside. With a depressed and pessimistic old man in tow, she learns about the futility of existence once more, as he quotes the hollow two-day life-expectancy of a Mayfly, for example. It is at times poetic and reflective, sometimes funny and sad as it heads towards the finale with some interesting outcomes.

The visuals are excellent, camerawork super throughout and the music puts the viewer straight back into Pinocchio Land with circus-style pipe-organs, fairground squeeze-boxes, delightful orchestral support and simple solo piano. It's a gorgeous film and even though a bit erotic, is far from porn. It's charming, inoffensive and interesting. Try and find it! I had to buy the DVD!

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