Bizarre and beautiful trio of tragic love stories from Hana-Bi director

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DIRECTED BY Takeshi Kitano

STARRING Miho Kanno, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Tatsuya Mihashi

Opens May 30, Cert 12, 113 mins

Based on the elaborate, expressive puppetry of Bunraku, a 300-year-old Japanese art from, this latest from Takeshi Kitano is an ambitious work featuring three interconnected stories. The first involves Matsumoto (Nishijima) and Sawako (Kanno), a couple known as the “bound beggars” who wander shabbily and aimlessly through a park, attached to each other by a long red cord. They present a bewildering, enigmatic, even laughable spectacle. But through heartbreaking flashbacks, we learn how this pair were once happy and well-heeled young lovers until Matsumoto was forced by his parents into a marriage of convenience with a young heiress. We’re then taken through the strange but logical sequence of events which lead inexorably to their present situation.

The second story involves a yakuza boss who, near the end of his life, finds himself pining for a girl he used to meet on a park bench for lunch each Saturday, whom he abandoned when he joined the mob. He returns to the park, 30 years on. There on the bench sits an eerily well-preserved middle-aged woman.

The third (and weakest) tale is of an insipid teen-pop starlet who loses her looks in a car accident but not the attentions of a stalker, who goes to extreme lengths to ingratiate himself with her.

These last two tales done with, Takeshi returns to his first couple and their seemingly futile meanderings through the seasons of the year. They exchange no words?reducing the film, effectively, to silent cinema. There is, we understand, nothing left for them to say to one another. Yet Takeshi gives us every reason to remain riveted to the pair, as slowly they wend towards the film’s striking, wintry conclusion.

Dolls hasn’t been greeted with universal praise. Some have accused Takeshi of self-indulgence, of mistaking cinematic longueurs for some sort of poetic intensity. But this is more than a series of gorgeously shot tableaux?the feelings Dolls evokes go way beyond the sentimental.

A deeply touching movie.


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