Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Hirokazu Kore-eda and Bae Doo-Na breath life into an inflatable doll with "Kuuki Ningyou"

by Chris MaGee

There was word back in October that "Linda, Linda, Linda" and "The Host" star Bae Doo-Na was going to be starring in Hirokazu Kore-Eda's next project, which at that time was being spoken of as a sci-fi fantasy about a "a non-human creature that behaves like a human and even falls in love with a human after it learns to communicate." Of course everyone thought Bae would then be playing some kind of alien, but it turns out that won't be the case.

When Kore-eda said that the film would be about "a non-human creature" he wasn't kidding. "Kuuki Ningyou" or "Air Doll" will be a romantic fantasy about an inflatable sex doll (Bae) who becomes conscious and begins to experience emotions towards her owner, a video store clerk portrayed by Arata, who has worked with Kore-eda previously on his breakthrough film "After Life".

This definitely doesn't sound like territory that Kore-eda has covered before, and to make the project even more unique in his filmography this will be Kore-eda's first manga adaptation. "Kuuki Ningyou" will be based on the manga of the same name by Yoshiie Goda who also authored "Jigyaku no uta" which Yukihiko Tsutsumi adapated into his 2007 comedy "Happily Ever After" starring Hiroshi Abe and Miki Nakatani.

Apparently Kore-eda was drawn to the manga, a collection of stories not only about a now conscious inflatable doll, but the isolation of the men who use her, since "Kuuki Ningyou" was published in 2000. Now with Bae on board Kore-eda can begin to bring this magical love story about the "emptiness of urban life" to the screen. Filming began in December in Tokyo with a stellar supporting cast which includes Itsuji Itao, Susumu Terajima, Jo Odagiri, Ryo Iwamatsu, and veteran actress Sumiko Fuji.

Even though this sounds like an even more atypical move for Kore-eda than his 2006 jidai-geki film "Hana yori mo naho" I have to admit it sounds very exciting, plus it begs the question as to how he will approach the subject matter. If you have a film based around an inflatable sex doll will he have to include explicit scenes, and how will he tackle having a main character who's made of flimsy latex? Bae looks fairly solid in character above, but will Kore-eda employ any special effects into the depiction of the doll's transformation into a human being with emotions?

So many unanswered questions, and it looks like we'll have to wait a few months before we get any answers. Asmik Ace won't be releasing "Kuuki Nongyou" until the fall.... right in time for the Toronto International Film Festival perhaps?

Thanks to Tokyograph for the news, and to Variety Japan for additional details and the photo of Bae Doo-Na in character.

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