I’ve only read two reviews so far, one on a Japanese blog, and one on this site, both of which tsk-tsk’ed at the film. In fact, the Japanese reviewer named “Daremo shiranai” as Koreeda’s peak, and went on to say that he’s drunk on his own glory, e.g. Air Doll.
Well, even if that is the consensus, I hope people will see and feel differently about this film. In my head I’m not even going to compare it to Maboroshi no hikari, which speaks a different tongue than Air Doll.
It’s a film that is at once visually rockin’, and that makes you think. About what? Some might just see dull metaphors, like a doll that magically gets a breath of life, walks around town looking at everything with the innocence of a child, and that’s the whole point- we’re empty shells walking around taking everything for granted.. yawn. However, I see her little forays as an interlude, and for the most part, this is one heavy film. Granted there’s a lot of symbolism, but it isn’t the cheap kind. It’s a deconstruction of relationships- mainly man and woman, us and the outside world- what makes us human. And somehow it doesn’t seem like a pedantic sermon.
For the Japanese society, this is a very revealing film about how men treat women, so I also thought about it from that perspective. That’s where all that talk about “substitutes” lead me. It’s easier to limit yourself to a make-believe world of life-size dolls, meido-cafes, fetish porn- than actually have a relationship. I didn’t like the scene where Nozomi confronted her “owner”- the dialogue seemed forced, except for one part, where the guy obviously hates having a real discussion about how she feels, and calls her 面倒臭い – which is “irritating nuisance” times 10. This tells us a lot about how the Japanese deal (or don’t deal) with relationships- hence the safe haven of a virtual relationship. The most disturbing scene was with her co-worker she falls for, towards the end (can’t give away too much). I am still left pondering about that one, and her reaction.
I’m going to have to see it again, but not too soon.