Combustible Celluloid
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With: Bae Doona, Arata, Itsuji Itao, Joe Odagiri, Sumiko Fuji, Masaya Takahashi, Susumu Terajima, Kimiko Yo
Written by: Hirokazu Kore-eda, based on a manga by Yoshiie Goda
Directed by: Hirokazu Kore-eda
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: Japanese, with English subtitles
Running Time: 125
Date: 05/14/2009

Air Doll (2010)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The acclaimed, but inconsistent Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda returns to his first non-realistic film since the wonderful After Life, but it's also a million miles away from his previous film, the outstanding Ozu-inspired Still Walking.

Air Doll goes on far too long and plays with so many different themes that it seems more like a doodle than a film. It involves an inflatable sex doll named Nozomi (Doona Bae), which "finds a heart" and comes to life. We see endless montages of her discovering the small beauties of life, as well as lifelessly enduring the mechanical pounding of oversexed men. She gets a job in a video store and falls in love with another clerk there; they have several sweet little dates in which he explains more things to her. (This also allows for lots of little movie-related conversations and references.)

There's also an old man with more advice, and images of garbage and so many other themes that it takes Kore-eda a full half hour just to end the film. The ending could have been an O. Henry-style stinger, but it comes so late and after so much meandering that it just thuds. Viewed at the 53rd San Francisco International Film Festival.

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