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Hello My Dolly Girlfriend

August 1, 2013

Takashi Ishii officially joins the dirty old men club.

Figyua na anata (2013)

It is no secret Ishii has always had a thing for sex and violence – and sexual violence. This has been more than obvious since his breakthrough as a manga writer in the 1970’s. Ishii’s visual eye and tremendous skill as a writer, however, became ever more obvious as he entered the film biz.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s Ishii directed and/or write a number of terrific efforts (Love Hotel, 1985 ; Original Sin, 1992 ; Black Angel Vol. 2, 1999) where graphic sex made way for excellent screenwriting and stylish neo-noir visuals. Since then Ishii has come a long way down. With the SM films in the 2000’s Ishii no longer even pretends to hide his desires. The director’s latest, Hello My Dolly Girlfriend, is a shameless otaku epic like no other.

The film’s hero is a bullied young man (Takusu Emoto), whose new girlfriend is a living human size doll (Kokone Sasaki). Unlike most doll romances – which stretch from Death Note director Shusuke Kaneko’s Mischievous Lolita: Attacking the Virgin From Behind (1986) to arthouse auteur Hirokazu Koreeda’s Air Doll (2009) – Ishii goes straight for the rapes.

The film sees its heroine spend most of her time bottomless, and the protagonist has sex with her for the first time before she has even come alive.

Ishii’s trademarks are still here. Rain, neon lights, recycled music, and Naoto Takenaka. What is missing is solid direction.

The film’s main attribute is its sheer lack good taste. The most memorable sequence features a woman raped, killed, and then raped again. A moment later the heroine kicks the villains to the ground with roundhouse kicks – all without wearing pants, and shot from low angle.

This would all be fine within exploitation genre were the film less clumsy and more compact. At nearly two hours the film outstays its welcome before halfway. After concluding his yakuza outrage, Ishii dedicates the rest of the film for never ending fantasy sequences – and Kokone’s naked body.

The latter attempt is doomed from the beginning, thanks to Japan’s prevailing movie censorship. Unlike the graphic rape of a dead woman, full frontal nudity is still considered obscene by the Japanese officials. The result is digital mosaic throughout the film.

(To clear things up, pubic hair does pass the Japanese censorship these days; however, Ishii’s heroine is trimmed, and the cameraman crawling half of the time, resulting in revealing material that even the notorious R18+ rating could justify.)

The film is not without its amusing points, though. The hero, a work-bullied office rat, is a violent macho man – when watching adult videos! When he encounters a real woman – in this case an enraged lesbian – he runs for his life. Japan’s traditional masculine society combined with the ever growing power of women has resulted in sad misfits who can only feel comfortable with dolls, anime characters and underage girls.

Occasional poignant moments do not make a film, though. As exploitation Hello My Dolly Girlfriend just isn’t energetic enough; as satire the fan service galore makes it impossible to take seriously. Any hopes of Ishii’s return to form, raised by his his previous effort, A Night in Nude: Salvation (2010), are brought down.

Next Ishii will be delivering another R18+ rated SM film, Sweet Whip, which opens in September, only three months after Hello My Dolly Girlfriend. That time Ishii aims at unclothing Mitsu Dan, who also has small role in Dolly Girlfriend.

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