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
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.