Dolls
3 out of 5 stars
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
three stories of undying love Kitano stays behind the camera for this arty and meditative film that basically seems to be saying that love will drive you nuts! There are three main stories, with the main one focusing on two "bound beggars", a young man and woman who walk blankly through the city, across the landscape and through the four seasons in search of ... something. We get the details in flashbacks: Matsumo (Nishijima) is getting ready to marry the boss' daughter, a decision he made for his career that drove his girlfriend Sawako (Kanno) to suicide. She's now a virtual zombie, and overwhelmed with guilt, Matsumo rescues her from a mental hospital and starts an odyssey of redemption that costs him everything. Meanwhile, we meet Hiro (Mihashi), a mob boss who is full of regret for leaving his girlfriend (Matsubara) years earlier, so he tracks her down and tries in his own way to make amends. And then there's the young pop star Haruna (Fukada), who is stalked by a fan (Takeshige) who's far more loyal to her than anyone would ever believe.

All three stories are about the decisions we make that affect our whole lives, but the key element here is that we are powerless to make the right decision due to the sheer emotions involved, not to mention pressure from other people. This larger issue--consequences, blame, responsibility--is where the title comes in; the film is framed with a bunraku performance, Japan's national art-form involving elaborate puppets. The central story of Matsumo and Sawako parallels a famous bunraku love tragedy, and the film is designed to heighten reality with outrageous costumes, lyrical cinematography, minimalist music and weighty romantic themes. Kitano's film is at times drop-dead gorgeous, powerfully moving and very confusing. A lot of the plot elements are undefined, even as the film's hints and insinuations grip us deeply. The sheer artfulness of it all is rather self-indulgent at times, feeling slow and long and more than a little fragmented. But it's also visually vibrant and laced with colour and irony. A curiosity that's well worth seeing just for whatever you find in it.

cert 12tbc themes, violence 4.Oct.02

dir-scr Takeshi Kitano
with Miho Kanno, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Tatsuya Mihashi, Chieko Matsubara, Kyoko Fukada, Tsutomu Takeshige
release UK 30.May.03, US 10.Dec.04
02/Japan 1h23

Love and death. Matsumo and Sawako (Nishijima & Kanno) have a long journey ahead of them...

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2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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