‘Marronnier’: Compelling, Creepy, and Campy (review)

Japanese movie, based on the manga by Junji Ito. Marino (Mayu) is a young woman who’s “hooked on dolls,” particularly those made by famous doll maker Iwata (Ochyazukenori). Her passion is ultimately detrimental, as Iwata’s loony assistant Numai (Hiroto Nakayama) becomes fixated on her. He eventually kidnaps her and reveals Iwata’s secret: the dolls are actually real women, sealed in wax. Marino is trapped—her only hope for rescue is her brother Kurataro (Hideyuki Kobayashi) and her best friend Mitsuba (Misao Inagaki, who also illustrates horror manga).

What strikes me most about the film is that it can be really silly, yet also violent and disturbing. It’s low-budget, so the special effects are laughable in most cases, yet scenes like a woman getting her hand sawn off with wire look pretty realistic. The dichotomy of goofy/gory is best illustrated by a subplot about two womanizing guys, Ichijyo (Haruna Hoshino) and Tetsuji (Tetsuya Shibata). One is given to slapstick, like when a girl he tries to get with hits him and he falls over. But the other is killed by Numai, and his corpse is carried off by a girl he slept with and forgot about.

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One theme in the movie is that of women being equated with dolls. Most of the men shown seem to want a submissive, inanimate object rather than a woman. Iwata was completely disinterested in his wife until he turned her into a doll. Numai treats Marino like a mannequin, dressing her and saying he can make her “eternally beautiful.” marr1What’s weird is that there’s no human nudity—but a few dolls get naked. I’m not sure the film is meant as a condemnation of the objectification of women or a reinforcement; if I had to speculate, I’d probably say condemnation or at least commentary, since Numai and Iwata are completely insane.

I think the most interesting character is Mitsuba. She’s loyal and brave and wants to protect Marino, who’s basically useless for most of the movie. She also seems to be gay. During a scene when Marino falls asleep, Mitsuba touches her lips and almost kisses her. Then there’s the scene when they visit a dressmaker, and the two dress as bride and groom. I find Mitsuba stronger and more compelling than Marino, and I wish she were the main character instead.

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My main gripe is that the film is subtitled, but the captions are a bit slower than the dialogue, leaving me hanging on the actors’ every word while I waited for translation. But overall, the acting isn’t terrible, and it’s pretty original.

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Look, it’s Junji Ito!

Published by GhoulieJoe

I wuvs the horror movies and like to write snarky reviews about them. I also included some pretentious as hell microfiction (don't worry, it's at the bottom).

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