The love of an inflatable life-size sex doll

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The premise of Koreeda Hirokazu’s 2009 “Air Doll,”(Kûki ningyô), an undersocialized if not outright autistic 30-something man, Hideo (Itao Isuji) is in love with an inflatable life-size girl, Nozomi (Korean actress Bae Doona [Cloud Atlas]), while a flesh-and-blood young woman tries to get closer to him, will remind North American viewers of “Lars and the Real Girl,” the 2007 American movie starring Ryan Gosling, directed by Craig Gillespie. Lars was not as warm as Elwood P. Dowd with his invisible rabbit, Harvey (1950), but those around him accepted the personhood of the not-real girl as those around Dowd did his invisible rabbit friend.

Elwood gets to keep his delusion in “Harvey.” Lars gets over his fixation on the inflatable doll and pursues a relationship with Karin (Emily Mortimer), who has been patiently accepting. But, though Koreeda has been labeled the “Japanese Steven Spielberg,” there is no happy ending in “Air Doll.” “Air Doll” is far darker a movie than the two American movies it brought to my movie-drenched mind. (“Ex machine” is rather different…)

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Koreeda’s movies intertextualities are unleashed by Nozomi getting a job in a video store, where mention of movies is a given.

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The often naked charm of Bae Doona, whimsy and piling on of messages about urban loneliness (and the disposability of everything, including human relations, and human corpses literally put out in the trash) is not really sufficient to support the running time of 125 minutes (Koreeda edited the movie), though the cinematography of Taiwanese Mark Lee (Lee Pig-Bin’ In the Mood for Love, Norwegian Wood, Renoir) provides visual riches.

 

©2016, Stephen O. Murray

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