Video Player All Time Top Ten! No. 8: AIR DOLL

Founder and Editor; Toronto, Canada (@AnarchistTodd)
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Video Player All Time Top Ten!  No. 8: AIR DOLL

[Twitch is undergoing some behind the scenes tire kicking and bolt-tightening over the next few days, work that may slow down the regular flow of new information a little bit. So, while that's going on we'll be presenting a series of retro-reposts, pulling forward the all time top ten videos since we moved to our current video system. This post originally appeared June 8.]

What is the strangest thing about hugely acclaimed Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-Eda making a film about a sex doll come to life and on a quest for meaning and love? Very likely the fact that if not for the sexual nature of the doll's origins this would play as a straightforward, very sweet romantic fantasy. It'd be Mannequin, basically, only with much better everything. Here's how it was summarized when it screened in Cannes:

Hideo, who lives alone, owns a life-size "air doll", which suddenly finds herself with a heart. Everything is new to her in the world outside Hideo's house. She meets all kinds of people. The world is filled with so many beautiful things, but everyone seems to have some kind of hollowness, just as she has. In the morning, she pumps herself up, and takes a walk.

One afternoon, she meets Junichi who works at a rental video store, and instantly falls in love with him. A first date. New words she learns from him. She starts working with him at the store, enjoys talking and being with him. Everything seems to be going perfect, until something unexpected happens to the doll.

A sad yet happy fantasy. This is a story about a new form of love.

Bae Doo Na, ARATA, Itao Itsuji and Joe Odagiri star. The trailer has just arrived and you can find it below the break!

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The all-seeing eyes of Nippon Cinema spotted it first.

panikJune 8, 2009 9:11 PM

this has sap all over it.
i would rather see the reverse.
after 4 weeks of "love", man starts to see flaws in girl...arguments and bickering start (and farting).
girl turns into to doll, man deflates doll, puts doll in cupboard and goes to pub.

what's the male version of the chick flick?...dick flick?

Ricki-Oh 90210June 8, 2009 9:23 PM

Been looking forward to this. Nobody Knows and After Life were excellent. I didn't know World's End Girlfriend scored the soundtrack. He does atmospheric electronic/instrumental music I always thought would work really well in a film.

kindaikunJune 8, 2009 10:35 PM

Looking pretty good. I'm not familiar with World's End Girlfriend, but I'm really liking the music. Regarding the trailer looking a little sappy, Japanese trailers have a habit of trying to make the film look more romantic/mawkish then it actually is to make it appeal to a wider audience, I'd reserve judgement until seeing the final film.

Agent WaxJune 9, 2009 3:37 AM

I suppose it's in the eye of the beholder, but I personally find that to be a most unattractive sex doll. Hideo should be ashamed of himself and his poor taste for buying that.

ChevalierAguilaJune 9, 2009 6:23 AM

"I suppose it’s in the eye of the beholder, but I personally find that to be a most unattractive sex doll. Hideo should be ashamed of himself and his poor taste for buying that."

It could be worst, it could be a Sandra Oh doll.

Niels MatthijsJune 9, 2009 7:50 AM

It's weird to see a film maker like Kore-eda dabble in the waters of Video Girl Ai, but seems nice enough. Still have to see his previous flick though.

pochiWJune 9, 2009 8:20 AM

looks sweet and rather shocking as a result. i can't wrap my head around bae/koreeda's decision to infantilize the sex doll, but then the offbeat coquette persona fits with her alt-fashion icon/renaissance artist image when not acting in korea, and the lolita fetish toys. instead of a cute, adorable doll-as-girl, i thought it'd an empty vessel like chance the gardener or something.

mistereshJune 9, 2009 6:32 PM

Geopolitics and unintentionally disturbing sexual politics?

All from a film that was probably started with a conversation along the lines of: "What would happen if a sex doll came to life?"/"Wouldn't it be funny if a sex doll came to life?"

Todd BrownJune 9, 2009 6:50 PM

Hmmm ... I hadn't even considered this in the light of the whole 'comfort women' angle ... that's a good point ...

ChevalierAguilaJune 9, 2009 10:54 PM

Devon Aoki's face looks like it's melting, and Sandra Oh? More like Sandra Oh shit!

Bae Doo Na looks far more cute and watchable than those other two. Chiaki Kuriyama also looks quite weird if you ask me.

Ahem, sorry for derailing the topic.

TheDougJune 10, 2009 12:58 AM

Since everyone's speculating on the 'sexual slant' of this film I thought I'd excerpt a section of Derek Elley's review from Variety, "Also, unlike several other "living doll" tales of men fascinated by life-sized female playthings -- especially Luis Berlanga's 1975 "Life Size," with Michel Piccoli -- Kore-eda's movie doesn't even flirt with the sexual or social subtexts. Pic has an almost childlike purity, matching the doll's own worldview, that's maintained until the end." See full review here:

James MarshJune 10, 2009 7:19 PM

My friend saw this at Cannes and she said it was excellent.

Ricki-Oh 90210June 11, 2009 1:11 AM

ChevalierAguila: I wasn't even talking about you.

Agent WaxJune 11, 2009 5:17 AM

I stirred up a hornet's nest, it seems. I was being sarcastic with my earlier post, since I find this film to be rather pointless. I do personally find the sex doll character to be extremely unattractive, partly due to her hair and makeup, but certainly not due to her ethnicity. However, my point is I was talking in context about sex dolls, not women. I didn't write the script. I didn't make the character a sex doll (out of all possible types of dolls), and I certainly did not cast a Korean to play the part of a sex doll of a Japanese man (WW2 comfort women undertones or otherwise).

Let's be clear: a sex doll is a doll used by lonely, sad men as a masturbatory aid, a receptacle for their penises. They are essentially the foci of any twisted fantasies, the object of gratification of fertile imaginations. And herein lies my problem with this film.

While I do not doubt Kore-eda's deft hand and well-intentions in crafting a story which perhaps warns against the dehumanising of prostitutes or comfort women, I do not think that he correctly estimated the level of depravity involved in the sex doll industry. Not to say that all users are depraved, but merely that there is a lot more depravity to it than is apparent at surface. And when the subject of your relatively family-friendly film is a sex doll, it goes without saying that the treatment of the issue will be extremely cursory or biased.

Far be it for me to oppose controversial or experimental filmmaking, but I do not feel that Kore-Eda made the wisest choice to portray the character as a sex doll (especially an innocent, naive one), as opposed to a more non-sexual one. A sex doll has basically only 1 purpose, is MADE with only 1 purpose. A film about a sentient, living sex doll is like an anime about a talking vibrating dildo with feelings. There are better ways, I feel, to get his point across. That's my opinion, anyway.

Bobby FischerJune 11, 2009 6:56 AM

Again, I find comments about how well a film is MADE to be interesting, but comments about personal opinions and taste to be useless. "I prefer tofu to chicken, so the director should have been sensitive to the plight of animals and used tofu." That would be an insane, ego-centric, self-indulgent comment. Some people that comment here tell us what he personally finds attractive and unattractive. Who cares? Why not tell us what hair color you prefer and ages you like too? Some also tell us what is and isn't depraved. I wasn't aware that there was only one proper sexual taste. As for sex dolls being only for lonely men ... perhaps ... I've known women that use female sex dolls (they don't seem to be lonely old men). Then we see some leap into political correctness -- i.e., using a Korean actress in a Japanese film makes the writer think of "comfort" women. Hey, that's your problem, it's not everyone else's reality. Perhaps I should rip a gun film because I feel a love of guns is a mask for inadequate penis size? Perhaps I do, but that would have nothing to do with the gun movie, and everything to do with my own issues and views.

As for telling a filmmaker that his vision for his movie is inferior to yours ... you just have to be kidding. Take his vision and discuss whether or not he succeeded in what he was trying to achieve. For example, a hunting rifle is made with only one purpose in mind, how dare the filmmaker allow his characters to use them to shoot people? And doesn't that bring back memories of a certain Vice President?

Again, we all have our tastes and views, but that's NOT film commentary, it's chat room blither based on lonely people that desperately want others to be interested in them.

Agent WaxJune 11, 2009 9:10 AM

Bobby Fischer, your blathering is unfortunately exactly what you claim to be railing against. NOBODY here is claiming that their opinion is anything more than that. We all have opinions and are free to express them. Unfortunately, that includes you.

Nobody is disputing Kore-Eda's right to make whatever film he wants to. I have a right to offer my opinion on his film. I think Lars Von Trier is a talentless hack, but never have I denied his right to shoot whatever the hell garbage he wants to call art, and never will I deny anybody else's right to access them if they so choose. I don't particularly care if you praise him to heaven, either. That is your right. And your right to express that opinion. So stop moaning when I post that I do not find the actress attractive enough to play the part of a sex doll, since sex dolls are not exactly known to sell on anything other than physical attractiveness to the buyer. Her role is therefore NOT something that I can easily 'buy into'. This may not be a problem for others, but it will probably be for me if I watch the film. IT would be like if he cast an 60-year-old to play a sex doll. It's not convincing to me. And before you start putting words into my mouth, NO, I'm not suggesting that Kore-Eda cast to please me. He can do as he wishes. But I'm not going to pretend that I don't have an opinion on the matter, or that I cannot express it.

Additionally, someone suggests an analogy to comfort women in the story. Unfortunately your limited sight deems that this is NOT a commentary on the film's point and/or vision. Nobody said it was. It is a possible link, and it was a valid point to make in film criticism. So what do you consider worthy of posting comments on? Since preference of style, language, music, and almost all components in a film are subjective, what else is there to discuss or comment on? What camera they used to film? The caterer they hired to provide meals during shooting? I dislike the hair-do Bae sports in the film because I feel it looks odd on her. Perhaps that's the entire point. I don't know. It's possible. But that's my opinion in any case. If you dislike the costumes in Curse of the Golden Flower because they don't strike you as realistic or practical, that's your opinion. And I respect your right to express it. It IS a component of the film, after all.

Furthermore, whether a filmmaker succeeded in his vision is only a part of the equation. The vision itself is no less a valid point of debate. If you think that the filmmaker's choice of vision and what shaped it is sacrosanct, then why do we even care what film they make? Why bother with theme at all? Let's just look at the technical aspects, and stylistic elements and whether they managed to sell you on anything.

Oh, and your whining? That's YOUR problem. Not everyone else's reality. If you want to read comments that only agree with your own, or only conform to your standard of what YOU think is a suitable level of discussion, I suggest you stop reading the comments on a public website and go hire yourself some sycophants. That way, you get the advantage of lonely people who desperately pretend to be interested in you.

Frankly, I think this has gone on long enough, and I'm not going to comment further on this topic. Todd, I apologise to you and the rest of TWITCH's crew for the trouble I unleashed, and for this uncouth post.

Rhythm-XJune 11, 2009 10:13 AM

The costumes in CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER are awesome.

Ard VijnJune 11, 2009 11:51 AM

Yeah, those costumes really show off the beauty of Asian women! :cheese:

There are a LOT of things I'd like to say concerning sub-concious context issues to Bobby Fischer (named after the famous chessplaying fanatical anti-semite perhaps?) and the right to blather on about inconsequential sidelines in internet comments and forums, but I think Agent Wax said it more clearly and eloquently than I ever could.

Agent Wax, while speaking for the TWITCH-crew let me assure you that the apology at the end of your post is unnecessary.

Greg ChristieJune 11, 2009 3:10 PM

Wow, you're above everyone else Agent Wax...

American_GangsterJune 30, 2009 10:59 AM

Hi, some of your comments are well thought out, most of you however [have clearly not read the bit on the comments form about not posting deliberate insults or obvious flames. If you want to disagree with people's opinions, feel free, but there's no need to be an ass about it.]