Kuki Ningyo / 空気人形 / Air Doll
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