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oblivion [Celluloid 07.29.08] movie review thriller

Year: 2007
Director: Masashi Yamamoto
Writer: Masashi Yamamoto
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: oblivion
Rating: 5 out of 10

Masashi Yamamoto’s erotic-thriller “Man, Woman, and the Wall” is a stimulating take on stalkers and voyeurism, both in creepy perversions and justifiable lust. The main character, Ryo, lives a rather dull life and has just moved into a new apartment, where he quickly finds that the thin walls allow him to hear nearly everything his neighbor does. He wastes no time in deciding to make eavesdropping a full-time hobby and develops an obsession for his beautiful neighbor, Satsuke (Sola Aoi), and the enigmatic details of her life. He goes to troublesome lengths to indulge his obsession, and as it continues, he eventually meets the object of his fantasies and tries to innocently befriend her while keeping his secret. However, there is danger to this as Satsuke has a disturbed, perverted, and threatening second admirer vying for her.

Ryo, interestingly, does not at first directly encounter Satsuke, and instead develops his interest in her completely through the sounds he hears and what little information he gathers. This creates a subtle tension of fantasy versus reality that is very well done in the movie, culminating in a scene where Ryo sees Satsuke face-to-face and all the scenes we have previously witnessed become back-filled in with Satsuke’s true face. The scene is superbly done, and gives us the other main statement of the film, which is how much of our perceptions are based on our limited knowledge… intimate knowledge of each other being the true ‘walls’ that separate Ryo and Satsuke, despite his clandestine knowledge of her most intimate acts. The dispelling of Ryo’s fantasy, and the tricks involved in the filming (such as Ryo insinuating himself into Satsuke’s apartment through his imagination so that he is both there and n ot there) are fantastic and compelling in how they twist the perceptions of the audience.

However, the voyeurism in this film is, ultimately, the point. In the “making of” special feature, director Masashi Yamamoto raises the question, “is there a nice eavesdropper out there?” which is clearly what Ryo is meant to be. Ryo, pitted against the other mysterious ‘stalker,’ never questions the morality of his eavesdropping, and his simple-minded yet innocent obsession is starkly contrasted with the complete perversion and darkness of Satsuke’s other admirer. The ethical ambiguity is the center of the film, allowing us to explore Yamamoto’s take on the potentially lighter side of a stalker, the nice-guy Ryo next door. While this may sound interesting, it ends up falling short, as the darkness expected froma movie of this genre is washed-out by the film’s other motivations.

Yamamoto takes an organic stance towards direction, accompanying the voyeuristic theme by attempting to capture a realistic and natural feel to the shots and the acting. Slow camera movement, mid-range, and long shots contribute to the feel of intimacy and barriers, creating an atmosphere of tension due to the technical expertise of Yamamoto. Through several shots, there is a sense of darkness and isolation which helps lend much needed darkness to an otherwise light and fluffy tone that is almost comedic (and even becomes flat-out comedic in a certain twist in the plot). The acting in the movie is fairly bland, as Yamamoto’s direction seemed to desire, and it feels that the characters are natural, but also not really impacting. The only exception to this is Yuta (Hiroto Kato) who at times is truly creepy.

This absentee impact and tone seems to come from a lackluster screenplay which cares more for Yamamoto’s concept than a disturbing or impacting experience. Though the idea is interesting, and is done well, the film falls short of the tension, suspense, and drama commonly associated with “Erotic Thrillers,” and fails to engage. Like many such films, the success of the film is carried on the shoulders of the sexual tension, and, therefore, the lead actress. This film is no different, and beneath the surface of Sola Aoi’s coy cuteness and erotic appeal, the film fails to deliver on depth.

As a low budget film, “Man, Woman, and the Wall” shows promise in the directing of Yamamoto and the draw of Sola Aoi. It is an original and interesting take on the genre that, unfortunately, fails in depth and drama due to not earning, within the film, the interest needed to deliver its scope. While it is certainly worth watching, whether for gauging Yamamoto’s talents or for indulging your own inner voyeur upon Sola Aoi’s frequent nudity, the film should probably be labeled as more an erotic yet somehow romantic comedy than as a thriller or suspense film. Not enough blood or darkness for my tastes.

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