In Dolls, Kitano cuts back and forth between three romantic tragedies that are set in an only slightly stylised version of today’s Japan, with plenty of attention for decorum and still drama.
Matsumoto jilts his lover Sawako to further his career; now he and Sawako roam Japan, despised and taunted, tied together forever by a red silk rope. Former star Haruna shuns the world after an accident leaves her disfigured, but her most devoted fan finds a (terrifying) way to meet her. And dying Yakuza boss Hiro suddenly remembers the loyal girlfriend he abandoned 30 years ago – and finds her still waiting for him.
While paying a kind of homage to the seventeenth-century Chikamatsu, the greatest dramatist of Japanese puppet (or doll) theatre, Kitano sets out to create the exact reverse of bunraku: a selection of human emotional disasters, as a doll might see them. The three stories span the four seasons, and a large part of Japan. The costumes are by Yohji Yamamoto.
Over the years, we have shown no less than sixteen films by this multi-talented Japanese maker at IFFR. A few of the more memorable being Sonatine (1993), Hana-bi (1997) and Zatoichi (2003). Dolls has a much softer tone, but is still a stylish, colourful masterpiece that deserves to be seen again.