The story behind this movie is great: two cutting-edge Japanese directors, Yukihiko Tsutsumi and Ryuhei Kitamura, are in Berlin for a film festival and meet while hanging out in the hotel bar. One thing leads to another and a challenge is issued; taking the premise of Tsutsumi's film Chinese Dinner, which uses only a single location with just two actors and has their interaction spiral out of control until they kill one another. For two directors well versed in this theme (Kitamura is best known in this country for his endearingly over-the-top popcorn flick Versus and Tsutsumi made the original film on which this challenge was based) it should have been a piece of cake, and while Kitamura's Aragami packed his usual visceral punch of fantastic duels, whacked-out karma and Tak Sakaguchi, Tsutsumi's 2LDK is a much harder pill to swallow.
I'm all for experimentation in cinema and when bigger studios take chances, it always makes me take notice. Even in the case of abject failures (Four Rooms anyone?), I can still appreciate what they were trying to do. Saying this, of course the idea behind the "Duel" project, as it came to be known, was intriguing to me, and while I wasn't familiar with Tsutsumi's work, Kitamura already had my attention. Both films were financed by Toei studios and each director had to work within the confines of the rules of the challenge and shoot his respective film within a week. I'm not sure of the type of release the films got upon their completion, but sadly, the whole experiment kind of fell apart when it reached these shores. Instead of one distributor picking these films up as a package, Media Blasters secured Kitamura's Aragami, which is easily the more marketable of the two, while TLA Releasing bought 2LDK.
Having seen both films, Aragami and 2LDK, but only reviewing 2LDK here, I can say that these films really complement each other well. I watched them within a day of one another and definitely liked to see the parallels between the two films, how both director's approached the subject matter with their more or less trademarked approaches. Unfortunately, Kitamura's movie more than capably stands on it's own, while Tsutsumi's piece, while well done, just doesn't have the same kind of aesthetic to it that Kitamura brings to each and every one of his films.
I know I sound like a Kitamura fanboy here, but not having seen Chinese Dinner, 2LDK's black comic approach comes across much weaker than the fantasy/action mix of Aragami. 2LDK, which stands for "2 Bedroom, Living Room, Dining Room and Kitchen," is supposed to be a comedy in which two actresses share an agency-owned apartment and are competing for the same role in a film called "Yakuza Wives." The apartment is magnificent, including such esoteric touches as a lush tropical garden, a massive stone fountain, a grand piano and a Peruvian parrot which may or may not be the host to the spirit of an ancient God. Sadly, none of these things really come into play in the larger scheme of the story and serve only as window dressing.
The meat of the piece, if you will, concerns the two actresses living there, Lana, the sweet, neat, modest girl-next-door type and Nozomi, the brash, loud, spoiled slut. Since the apartment is owned by their talent agency, the girls are neither friends nor acquaintances, in fact they're rivals. Both of them have just auditioned for a part in the picture, "Yakuza Wives," and are now waiting to hear which of them will get the part. Over the course of a single evening, the tension of finding out who got it co-mingles with their differences with each other and insecurities about themselves until all hell breaks loose. While watching these two actresses kick the living crap out of each other is entertaining at first, I mean, who doesn't love a good cat fight? But as the level of violence escalates to "Itchy and Scratchy" proportions, it just becomes sad. The ending irony is also a bit too much to take, truly adding insult to injury which I guess was Tsutsumi's point all along.
Picture: The film is presented in a 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. I am actually hard pressed to say if this movie was shot on film or DV, but it looks great regardless, although a couple of scenes did look a little dark on my TV.
Audio: The Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo Track sounds fine.
Extras: Included as Extras on this DVD are a "Making of…" featurette, the "Duel" press conference and trailers for other TLA releases.
Conclusion: As a companion piece to Kitamura's Aragami, 2LDK is almost required viewing, but as a stand alone film, it's a much harder sell. The fact that these films were split up by the distribution process here in the US won't help this film to find an audience either. If only they could have been released together, or even combined in the same package? Both film's shorter than average running times almost demand that they be released together. Since they weren't, all I can say is that I would definitely recommend viewing 2LDK if you've seen and are a fan of Aragami, otherwise it still would make a fine Rental.