Air Doll could best be described as Pinocchio with a Japanese outlook and an erotic twist. Instead of a wooden puppet, an inflatable sex doll comes to life and proceeds on a journey of discovery looking to explore the human world. Korean actress Bae Doona does a wonderful job depicting the doll who comes to life. It’s an immediately engaging film if you can get past the obvious creep factor. As she gradually loses her mechanical walk and behaves more like a human, she also develops a life away from the apartment and even gets a job!
Sadly, when the interest concept of the film drifts away, Air Doll’s storytelling becomes erratic, and its conclusion unsatisfying. Koreeda makes the point repeatedly about the emptiness of humans, forgetting that cities are home not only to lonely, alienated, and empty people but to brilliant, fulfilled, and compassionate individuals who contribute much value to our world. As such, she identifies with other outcasts, as well as with children. Also, needless to say, inflation proves to have both borderline erotic consequences and blissful side effects.
Despite the gloomy atmosphere, the movie reminds us of the cycle of life which consists of not only downs, but also ups. Apart from these, city slickers value money and sex more important than soul and love. For instance, a man prefers an air doll to a real woman and even a little girl prefers a ring to a doll given by her mother. Though she spends notable sections of the movie in her birthday suit, the actress brings a wide-eyed innocence to her role. After seeing this haunting movie, one may leave the cinema with a heavy heart and a deep sigh, trying to feel one’s long-lost soul and pondering on the meaning of life.
The film looks wonderful and has an almost fairy tale quality about it. What separates Air Doll from some of Koreeda’s previous work is his choice of Mark Lee as cinematographer. He films the city of Tokyo beautifully, with long, gorgeous tracking shots. . This allows for a somewhat analytical narrative comment which goes beyond an exclusive focus on Tokyoites. Although I do not agree with some artistic choices on a personal level, I cannot stretch how much I agree with the message of this film. Aside from the ending which left me unsatisfied for reason I don’t want to ruin, this film was very engaging and well made.
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