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Marronnier: A Doll Horror Movie

Elite // Unrated // June 7, 2005
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted June 4, 2005 | E-mail the Author
Marronnier is a microbudget Japanese horror flick, this creepy kid who's scorned when he tries to deliver a $5,000 doll to this girl he likes for their not-anniversary, and the doll was carved from the waxy flesh of a murdered woman who was submerged in a magic lake. He goes around killing girls, carving off body parts and using a special machine based on that lake water to transform his victims into dolls. Oh, and he unnerves one girl by brushing his teeth really quickly, and there's an attack with a hand-cranked sewing machine, mutilation and decapitation by razor wire, and a gigolo who's strung up like a marionette and savagely attacked with a sledgehammer and hedge clippers. This is just a recap of the first half-hour, by the way. For all I know, I'm confusing characters, botching the movie's non-linear time table, and misinterpreting everything that happens, but that's the kind of movie Marronnier is. I don't have a clue what's going on, but I do know that I intensely dislike it.

The movie confuses a slim runtime (clocking in at 82 minutes)
"I am barber."
and choppy editing for nimble pacing. As frantic as Marronnier is, there's no momentum pushing things forward, and that coupled with the incoherence of what passes for a story makes it all feel kind of excruciating. It's not that endearing, intriguing flavor of strange. It's not clever or funny. It's not unsettling or scary, and the handful of splatter effects and lesbian undertones don't come close to redeeming it. Marronnier plays like someone broke into a Japanese asylum, offered an inmate a $600 camera, an art department, and a fistful of psychotropic drugs, and then sold the domestic home video rights to Elite Entertainment. I watch a lot of truly awful movies, and it's not standard issue Internet reviewer hyperbole when I say that Marronnier is one of the most agonizing cinematic experiences I've ever had to endure.

Video: Marronnier is presented in anamorphic widescreen at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The frequent background noise, artifacting, pervasive aliasing, and lack of detail are all presumably a side effect of the low-rent DV photography. No, it's not a particularly impressive looking DVD, but considering the way the movie was shot, Marronnier probably won't ever look much better than this.

Audio: Marronnier sports two soundtracks -- the original Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo (the default track, encoded at a healthy 384kbps) and a Dolby Digital 5.1 remix (448kbps). The six channel remix is quite a bit louder than I'm used to, and I had to turn my receiver down several ticks for it to sound normal. As a remix, I guess it's competent -- the movie's music and sound effects are spread across the various channels reasonably well -- but as the cliché goes: garbage in, garbage out. Marronnier's dialogue is poorly recorded, sounding awfully thin and scratchy. The choppy score is a garage sale Casio special, with occasional snippets of "rock music" that sound eerily like the type of guitar noodling you'd hear as Zack was strolling into Mr. Belding's office on Saved by the Bell or something. Both the stereo and 5.1 tracks are in Japanese, and although the movie does feature optional subtitles, the subs often lag behind the dialogue. The subtitles are also a little sloppy, peppered with spelling and grammatical errors. The disc isn't closed captioned, in case anyone's curious.

Supplements: "The Legends of Marronnier" looks to be an eight minute short, but my tolerance for dolls making squeaky, chittering noises and flying around with a bunch of ineptly-superimposed digital effects is admittedly pretty limited, so I didn't quite make it all the way through.
"You're Marrionnier are all gone!"
The lengthiest of the extras on this DVD is a nearly fifteen-minute long interview with Junji Ito, who comments on his artistic influences, his favorite filmmakers, and, of course, the dolls of Marrionnier and his favorite bits from the movie. The DVD also includes a four minute montage showing photos of those dolls. The "Behind the Scenes" piece is also four minutes long, mixing a bit of candid on-set footage in with some extended takes and clips from the movie. There are also several minutes of "deleted scenes", although they're really just an assortment of short outtakes rather than entire scenes. A pair of widescreen trailers, one clocking in at thirty seconds and the other running a minute long, round out the extras. The DVD includes a set of animated 4x3 menus, and the provided insert lists the movie's twelve chapter stops.

Conclusion: During my college radio days, there was a DJ who had an old LP of gong music from the Philippines. The entire length of the album was devoted to people whacking various metal objects, and as atonal and unlistenable as it was, he felt compelled to play it on the air, cackling the entire time. Bill would probably like Marronnier in much the same way, reveling in its incoherence and inaccessibility, but I don't, and I feel pretty confident that the generic 'you' reading this probably wouldn't either. Skip It.
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