[Taste of Asia] Air Doll (2009)

A heartwrenchingly beautiful urban fairytale, Air Doll seeks to answer what it is to be human. Hirokazu Kore-Eda directs the film adapted from the manga of the same title with sensitivity and precision. Reminiscent of Hollywood films such as Splash, MannequinBlade Runner, Real Life Doll and even Pinnocchio, Air Doll pushes the boundaries of relationships with inanimate objects whilst exploring the desperate isolation of our empty urban existence.

Airdoll poster [Taste of Asia] Air Doll  (2009)

Middle-aged Hideo is a waiter who dotes on a lifesize sex doll he keeps at home as his wife.  He dresses her, takes her out for walks ( in a wheelchair) and talks to her over dinner; highlighting not only his isolation and loneliness, but of his disconnection with other humans and society.

Bae Doo-Na portrays Nozomis , the sex doll, granted life with an whimsical, fae like presence, delighting in the adventure before her. Her child like wonderment is fresh and endearing.  She explores downtown Tokyo, observing the masses but returns every evening to take her place as the complacent plastic wife.

Although seeing a young lady wandering the streets in the middle of the day in a skimpy maids outfit may raise eyebrows within most western societies, the Japanese tend to be very open with eccentricities without highlighting or commenting on them.

 

Despite Bae being naked a great deal of time, the film does not come across as crass or pornographic. It presents questions about the role of women within society through Nozomis belief that her only function is to provide sexual pleasure. However, morality is not highlighted within the film and appears to be skirted around neatly.

The main plot follows Nozomi taking on a job at a nearby video shop and the blossoming love she develops with a co-worker.  After her owner/ husband replaces her with a new plastic sex doll, she seeks her designer, shocked to find that she is a “low rent model.”

Secondary characters encountered throughout the film all search for connection.

Of particular note, the transformation scene is beautifully shot, where the doll creeps slowly out of bed, squeaking its plastic way down to a window and gradually turning to soft skin.

The climax had the opportunity of being incredibly touching, but like the air doll, whimpers as the hot air escapes slowly.

The film leaves the viewer saddened at the human condition of isolation. It swaps quickly from cynical to mystical and at nearly two hours long, may drag for many. Its definitely one of those ‘foreign films’ that needs to be on your list, if not only for Bae Doo-Na’s huge eyes and half smile.

Theatrical Poster Via Wiki

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