Dolls (Japan; 114 min.)

directed by: Takeshi Kitano
starring: Miho Kanno; Hidetoshi Nishijima; Tatsuya Mihashi
Chris says: "Made before THE BLIND SWORDSMAN: ZATOICHI, this is surely one of Takeshi Kitano's unlikeliest features. Taking a cue from the Japanese tradition of Bunraku puppet plays, the film presents three intertwined love stories based on them. The first follows a fractured couple reunited through a failed suicide attempt, the second finds a yakuza looking for his long-lost love, and the third centers on a young female pop singer and an idolizing fan. Probably the most leisurely-paced Kitano film I've seen, brimming with gorgeous cinematography and a lot of interesting (if oblique) scenes that seemingly don't add up. Or maybe they do, and I just need to see them again. Not as successful as the great, equally odd, similarly paced KIKUJIRO, but intermittently striking. 3 cats"
Michael says: "Takeshi Kitano’s DOLLS is a stunning and powerful film that follows three couples each with an inherently foolishly selfish core, disguised for the movies as the quest for ultimate love. The film is based on a traditional style of Japanese theatre called Bunkrau, which utilizes beautifully crafted puppets. At least this is what I learned after listening to the interview with Kitano on the DVD. DOLLS is a gorgeous film, with some astoundingly emotional moments and breathtaking visuals, but it is not an easy film to decipher.

"The central storyline revolves around a young man who, against his wishes, breaks off his engagement to settle for an arranged marriage with the company president’s daughter. On his wedding day, he hears that his former fiancée has attempted suicide and in the process suffered brain damage. She doesn’t remember anyone and lives in a lost, childlike state. Reeling with guilt, the young man flees his wedding, goes to the hospital and spirits his former intended away. Eventually he binds himself to her with a long red cord so she doesn’t wander off and hurt herself. This image, and resulting year-long quest the two make, represent a Japanese folk tale about the bound beggars. As the two wander across Japan the guide us through the stories of the other two couples. The first revolves around an aging yakuza boss who reassesses life’s priorities and tries to reconnect with his one true love who he hasn’t seen for over 50 years. The final story shows the ultimate sacrifice a person will take to meet their idol, as a traffic worker goes to extremes to come face to face with a wildly popular pop singer after her own life-altering accident.

"Kitano attacked his film’s palette with Japan’s four seasons, unabashedly filling the screen with astounding visuals, both natural and staged. Images of the two young wanders, bound by a scarlet tether, and walking aimlessly through groves of flowering trees remain burned on my memory days after seeing the film. A gentle scene near the beginning of the film involving a cheap, plastic toy prompted me to turn to Scot and say, ‘That was the most devastating scene I have ever seen.’ DOLLS is available on DVD and I highly recommend it. 4 ½ cats"