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2LDK (Tsutsumi Yukihito 2003)


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2LDK

Genre: Extreme Cat Fight to the Death

review in one breath

2LDK is directed by Tsutsumi Yukihito and was originally released in Japan as the first half of a cinematic "double feature" entitled Duel (2003), the second feature of which is director Kitamura Ryuhei's Aragami. The (well-known) story goes that Tsutsumi and Kitamura made a wager as to who could develop the more exciting "duel" film given the following criteria: (a) the film must only involve a duel (to the death) between two individuals, (b) the film set must be limited to a single location, and (c) the film must be shot within seven days.


intro

2LDK is directed by Tsutsumi Yukihito and was originally released in Japan as the first half of a cinematic "double feature" entitled Duel (2003), the second feature of which is director Kitamura Ryuhei's Aragami. The (well-known) story goes that Tsutsumi and Kitamura made a wager as to who could develop the more exciting "duel" film given the following criteria: (a) the film must only involve a duel (to the death) between two individuals, (b) the film set must be limited to a single location, and (c) the film must be shot within seven days.

The storyline which Tsutsumi has written and produced in 2LDK is indeed unique in that its dueling characters are young women who, though beautiful and seemingly refined on the outside, soon turn into the type of monsters which would make any boyfriend cringe. To enhance this crescendo into estrogen-fueled rage, Tsutsumi utilizes a few very effective cinematic styles which really stand out.

First is an introspective insight into both characters which allows us to hear their innermost/subconscious thoughts interspersed throughout the dialogue. Though polite and smiling on the outside, we are privy to the utterly sarcastic thoughts of each girl. This simple and often humorous technique completely curtails the need for dramatic build-up of tension by allowing the audience to immediately see that these girls' relationship is beyond hope from the start. Second is frequent use of a "first person perspective" camera angle, which provides audiences vicarious exposure to what a character is seeing. This proves most effective when we, through the character's own eyes, see the absolutely annoying smirks and behavior of the other.

These cinematic techniques effectively create a female-centric introspection par excellance and will cause any male to shudder in fear at the recognition that this may indeed be the way the shaplier gender thinks. Thus, from what seems to be a basis in realism, Tsutsumi effectively develops the ultimate cat fight which is 2LDK.

story

Although both Nozomi (Koike Eiko) and Lana (Nonami Maho) find themselves sharing a plush condo/apartment with 2 bedroooms, a Living room, Dining room and Kitchen (2LDK) these two girls are worlds apart. Lana comes from the relatively urbanized Kyushu area and has achieved either runner-up or champion in a long list of beauty contests. Moving to Tokyo, Lana hopes to find her big break through auditions for film roles. Her inner demons, however, continue to haunt her due to the (utterly) tragic outcome of a relationship she once had with a married man. Nozomi, on the other hand, comes from the very small (northwestern) island of Sado and has absolutely no "worldly" experience other than her small community's conviction that she "could be a star". She also has come to Tokyo in the attempt to accomplish what her townsfolk believed of her.

Both girls suddenly find themselves competing for the same role in a film directed by their mutual acquaintance and landlord, director Ezaki. The outcome of this competitive realization, accompanied by the vastly different upbringing and outlook of each girl, quickly moves from verbally benign insults to outright nasty behavior. Both girls are soon battling each other in an array of creative and particularly female methods. The story which unfolds is truly one which rivals Kitamura's Aragami and not only adheres to the criteria of the wager, but may indeed be attempting to trump the wager given 2LDK's conclusion.

verdict

First off, anyone who has seen (or plans to see) Aragami will need to see 2LDK. Since both these films derive from the same agreement, are bound by the same filming criteria, and were intended to be seen back to back, adequate appreciation (or critique) of either film will likely require an understanding of the other. And in fact, this approach will balance out the shortcomings of either film.

Aragami's dialogue-heavy portions are paralleled by Tsutsumi's overly prolonged scenes where we hear each girl's thoughts. Though quite entertaining at the beginning, I had heard enough after each girl's attitude and dislikes had been thoroughly established. But on and on it went. Once the action starts, however, Tsutsumi completely drops this technique (thankfully) and we don't hear another peep from the brain of either girl. Another aspect which I would label a shortcoming is Tsutsumi's habit of shaking the camera during the climactic fight scenes. A little tremble might work, but I got the feeling this was being filmed while the camera-man was thrashing about in a mosh pit. (!)

But overall 2LDK delivers quite an effective and disturbing crescendo into violence. This crescendo is perhaps doubly disturbing since we rarely see two girls go at it like this. There is plenty of psychological manipulation and treachery, and even more all-out physical violence. Weapons of choice include a variety of household items ranging from chemical bathroom cleaners to decorative swords. In several instances, we are left wondering whether these gals are indeed superhuman, as they are able to survive abuses which would surely send you or I to an early grave.

All in all 2LDK packs quite a whallup in terms of confrontational violence and is indeed unique in its use of female characters to this end. The film's few shortcomings are softened with an understanding of the self-imposed criteria for filming (and a recognition of similar shortcomings in Aragami), and the fact that this storyline is actually competing with Kitamura's version makes 2LDK all the more interesting and worth watching.

Version reviewed: Region 1 DVD

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
This film, produced in 7 days, is the director's attempt to win a wager with Kitamura Ryuhei over who could make the most "extreme duel". PLENTY of creative and shocking violence perpetrated upon each other. And speaking of shocking, never, EVER try that bathtub scene at home! Had this been a Miike film, we may indeed have seen the lesbian cat fight from hell. (!!!) But this is not a Miike film. I doubt there is another "cat fight to the death" film quite like this.

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