Air Doll

(Kuki Ningyo, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan, 2009)


Korean star Bae Doo-na gamely takes the role of an inflatable sex toy in Hirokazu Kore-eda’s very odd Air Doll.


Adapted from a well-known manga by Yoshiie Goda, this tale unfolds the juxtaposition that this director has virtually made his signature by now: the grotty bleakness of daily, urban life in Japan (all the lonely people, where do they all come from?) rubs up against syrupy, Amélie-type magical whimsy, heavily laid on.


This uneasy combo is admirably summed up in a climactic overhead shot of the discarded, lifeless doll out with the trash in the early morning light, which an onlooking child finds unaccountably “beautiful”!


Likewise, Wizard of Oz-style pathos around the doll’s growing humanity (perfectly communicated by Bae) is almost cancelled out by a high degree of perversity. Shall I ever forget the sight of the doll, post-sex, scrubbing out her own detachable vagina?


Like his colleague Naomi Kawase, Kore-eda arrives here, at the end of the century’s first decade, at an uncertain career point.

© Adrian Martin December 2009

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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