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Like “Aragami”, the other half of the 2-movie “Duel” series (read the review of “Aragami” for an explanation), Yukihiko Tsutsumi’s “2LDK” feels stunted, which isn’t much of a surprise since the two movies (if you can even call them that) owed a night of drinking for their existence. Like Ryuhei Kitamura’s film, “2LDK” tells the tale of two opposing characters set in one location and shot from a constricted screenplay in 7 days. The result? A movie that isn’t really a movie, and let’s leave it at that.
“2LDK” sets its grudge match in a surprisingly large rented apartment in Tokyo (“2DLK” refers to 2 bedrooms and 1 living room, the way rental space is listed in the papers), currently being shared by two wannabe actresses. One half of the odd couple is young and neurotic Nozomi (Eiko Koike), a girl from a small island who feels the pressure to live up to her promise of movie stardom. The other half is Lana (Maho Nonami), a slightly older uptown girl with money to burn — or so it seems. Trouble arises when the two, both of who secretly loathes each other, goes out for the same part, and now returns home to wait for the call. Before long, ambition gets the better of them.
For much of its first half writer/director Yukihiko Tsutsumi convinces you the movie might actually be a farcical comedy, a Japanese take on “Grumpy Old Men” but with two independent and self-aware young women. Unfortunately this doesn’t last, and the second half is anything but comedic. Further diluting the notion of “2LDK” being a comedy are some unnerving sequences where Lana sees images of a dead mother and her baby in a bloodied bathtub. Needless to say, stark ghostly visions aren’t exactly the stuff of great comedy.
The second half is drama mixed with absurd action as the two women go at it with anything and everything. Of course the whole thing meets the absurd level only because each women is bashed, stabbed, and even electrified before things are over. After the first bashing, a normal person would be dead, or at least on her way to the hospital. Not so with our heroines, who continues to pummel each other in, strangely enough, a rather orderly fashion. Basically Lana and Nozomi takes turns beating each other, with their attempts at a final resolution always coming up short for some unexplained reason.
Taken as a drama, with some leeway for Absurdist Theater, “2LDK” is not bad at all. It certainly uses its one location well, although I have to question why a rented apartment with two young women has a katana in it, not to mention a chainsaw and a, of all things, sai just hanging on the wall. Do all Japanese apartments have these deadly weapons just sitting there? Also, that’s one awfully big apartment for two starving artists to rent.
The script by Tsutsumi seems to work best in the beginning, as we get to know the two women. Once the punching and stabbing starts, “2LDK” becomes simply too ridiculous to take seriously.
Tsutsumi also allows us to hear the women’s thoughts in the beginning, when the movie is more comical than dramatic, but this device is completely forgotten in the second half. We hear what the woman says out loud followed quickly by their inner thoughts, in which they express their true feelings. An early sequence when Nozomi mentally catalogs Lana’s entire wardrobe, including the price tag of each item, is one of the movie’s more creative moments. Then again, since the women are actually acting out on their inner thoughts in the second half, I suppose it’s not necessary to hear what they’re thinking.
“2LDK” works best in the beginning, when the two women’s neurosis provides some funny moments, such as Nozomi writing her initials on all her things, or how Lana tries to convince Nozomi she actually has an acting career. The second half, with its lengthy (not to mention vicious and bloody) mano-a-mano confrontation does seem to go on for much too long. Of course Tsutsumi’s odd decision to film the fighting by shaking the camera erratically for some strange reason doesn’t help.
As a “duel” with Kitamura’s “Aragami”, I would have to call this a draw. Of the two experiments, “Aragami” seems to have a better handle on what it wants to accomplish. Then again, Tsutsumi’s “2LDK” is definitely more outrageous and unpredictable, not to mention much more somber and grittier than Kitamura’s flashy samurai battle.
Yukihiko Tsutsumi (director) / Yukihiko Tsutsumi (screenplay)
CAST: Maho Nonami …. Lana
Eiko Koike …. Nozomi