Air Doll (Kūki ningyō) (2009)
A special kind of toy is suddenly introduced to the real world around her in this artful fantasy from Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda. Hideo (Itsuji Itao) is a middle-aged man who doesn't have many friends, but he wards off loneliness with his companion Nozomi (Bae Du-na), who joins him for dinner each evening and in bed afterwards. But Nozomi is actually an inflatable love doll that can't speak or move on her own -- or she can't until one morning when she discovers she's developed the heart, flesh and soul of a human being. Unfamiliar with the world outside Hideo's apartment, Nozomi tentatively learns to walk, dress herself and venture out into the neighborhood, where she mimics the speech and habits of others. Hideo is surprised when he discovers his "air doll" has come to life, but he soon adjusts to Nozomi's new form. But Nozomi begins learning about the pain and confusion that having a heart can bring when she gets a job at a video store and falls in love with one of her co-workers, Junichi (Arata). As she struggles with her feelings, she seeks out her creator -- Sonoda (Joe Odagiri), the designer who invented the model of doll she used to be. Kuki Ningyo (aka Air Doll) was an official selection at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, where it was screened as part of the "Un Certain Regard" program. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi … More
as Air Doll
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Critic Reviews for Air Doll (Kūki ningyō)
Hirokazu's meandering, diffuse storytelling leaves the film feeling even longer than its near two hour running time, and it becomes difficult not to hope for the appearance of sharp objects just to introduce an element of suspense.
Air Doll wears that compassion on its sleeve a little too earnestly and humorlessly. Even an airhead could see that.
Here's where I'm contractually obligated to refer to her performance as 'brave,' as that's trusty film-critic shorthand for 'naked a lot.'
What's most interesting about the story is not its apparent oddness, but the fact it maintains a sense of fairy tale magic even while it's set in a cold and seemingly hollow world.
The film's poignant depiction of human loneliness is undercut by saccharine notes and a drifting tone.
Air Doll goes on far too long and plays with so many different themes that it seems more like a doodle than a film.
A charming, richly textured fable that touches on fundamental questions of existence.
The movie is a fable etched in comedy, sadness, and mild existential philosophy. Yes, the object of Kore-eda's fairy tale is a life-size sex toy, but it's the size and emotional shading of the toy's new life that interests him.
Kind of like what Wim Wenders did in Wings of Desire, but here it's all hot air.
A sex-toy Pinocchio? Offenbach's Olympia as an inflatable courtesan? If only.
The writer-director's interest in desire and longing is habitually channeled through quirky-quick brushstrokes that reduce the already borderline-pretentious proceedings into full-blown treacle.
Although most of the movie is fantastical and wonderfully perceptive, it's nevertheless deflating to see Nozomi become a latex version of Eleanor Rigby.
Frustratingly shallow, refusing to be about anything in particular. No, that's a lie: it's about a great many things, and it is horribly superficial about every one of them.
Plays like a middling installment of some softballed international portmanteau like Paris, je t'aime, but maddeningly inflated to at least ten times the recommended scale.
This follow-up, despite having been in the works for years, feels a tad rushed.
Although the bill may be too ambitious and Kore-eda's approach too diffused, Air Doll does offer food for thought.
Air Doll looks beautiful, and even though it bordered heavily on pretension, I went with it and was happy to give Kore-Eda the benefit of the doubt.
The urban fairytale about an inflatable sex doll come to life gradually unfurls as an achingly beautiful meditation on loneliness and longing in the city.
Audience Reviews for Air Doll (Kūki ningyō)
Despite what the unusual premise might lead you to believe, "Air Doll" is a very human, emotional, and strong work. Despite being a little too long and dragging in spots, I was captivated by this film through it's entire duration.More
I'm now a fully dedicated fan to the work of Hirokazu Koreeda. His films are endlessly lovable. Taking on strange ideas but presenting them with most earnestness. Here he does Toy Story/Pinocchio with a blow-up sex doll. She comes to life after her lonely owner leaves for work. She ventures around meeting people and begins to understand the world around her. She longs for a heart but soon finds with a heart comes great pain. This film is a realistic fantasy. Never once do we doubt the story that is being told. It deals with the objectification of women, and the loneliness of humanity. Koreeda never allows us to wallow in self-pity. He presents a montage of lonely characters which is absolutely crushing. He doesn't use cheap techniques, just showing people in their lives. Picking shell out of a cracked egg, dealing with picky customers, overhearing somebody else being chatted up. It's all done with such honesty you soon forget this is a story about a sex doll. Du-na Bae creates a fish out of water character looking for her purpose and happiness, without coming across as stupid or annoying. Her innocence drives the film and makes it all the more tragic. A wonderful piece.More
An inflatable doll comes alive when she grows a heart. Hirokazu Korreda certainly jumps around with his subject matter... bereaved widows, the after life, reluctant samurai and now this. I guess its all discussing the human condition, but while the film was interesting and unusual and kind of sad really, it jumped around until I wasn't sure what he was trying to say. Something about loneliness maybe, or objectification of women, or both... or either. With a macabre bit thrown in near the end. .More
Air Doll (Kūki ningyō) Quotes
- Air Doll:
- We lead our scattered lives, perfectly unaware of each other. Or at times, allowed to find the other's presence disagreeable. Why is it, that the world is constructed so loosely? A horse fly, bathed in light, flies in close to a blooming flower. I, too, might have been someone's horse fly. Perhaps you, too, had once been my breeze.
- Air Doll:
- It seems life is constructed in a way that no one can fulfill it alone.
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