a page of madness

film writing by nicholas vroman

Archive for October 2009

Kuki Ningyo / 空気人形 / Air Doll

leave a comment »

Even as Hirokazu Kore-eda has taken on the subjects mourning, the afterlife and abandonment, he’s always approached them with a certain light hand. As Kuki Ningyo has been hitting the festival and preview rounds, many critics are accusing Kore-eda of becoming a bit too pop, a bit too market driven in his current film. And though Kuki Ningyo may not reach the emotional depths of Mabarosi or Nobody Knows, it still has many satisfying – and touching – moments, that show Kore-eda still has an assured directorial hand and still makes some of the best movies in Japan. This modern-day Pinocchio story of an inflatable plastic doll, maid costume and all, come to life has a particular resonance in this otaku-obsessed culture. Korean star, Du-na Bae as Naomi, the air doll in question, is perfectly cast and brings a certain depth – and lightness to her being. The roving camera, by Du-na Bae, Hsiao-hsien Hou’s favorite, brings a new aesthetic to Kore-eda’s eye. Kuki Ningyo may not be Kore-eda’s greatest film, but it reveals a director still searching for something magic.

Originally published in EL Magazine, October 2009

Written by Nicholas Vroman

October 1, 2009 at 1:04 am

Pandora no Hako / パンドラの匣 / Pandora’s Box

leave a comment »

Celebrating the centenary of Osamu Dazai’s birth, no less than 3 productions of his lost generation novels are coming to the big screen this year. Villon’s Wife, which won for Kichitaro Negishi  best new director award at Monteal this year, opens thtoughout Japan in October, Maverick producer, Genjiro Arato, is making a version of Dazai’s most famous novel, No Longer Human. Pandora no Hako (Pandora’s Box), a minor novel by the great writer, under the direction of Masanori Tominaga, unfortunately lives on as a minor movie. Tominaga, who raised some eyebrows with his offbeat period piece, The Pavillion Salamandre, seemed perfect for helming this period piece (the end of World War II). The protagonist, young Hibari (Shouta Sometani), suffering from tuberculosis, is sent to a recovery asylum, where he comes of age amidst suffering oldsters and a pair of young nurses. Even with a fine cast of character actors and wonderful period detail, the story of a Dazai surrogate, paralyzed by life, history and illness, makes for a film equally stymied in direction.

Originally published in EL Magazine, October 2009

Written by Nicholas Vroman

October 1, 2009 at 1:02 am