Like 1995's "Okaeri," which also came from independent production stable Bitters End, Nobuhiro Suwa's "2 Duo" belongs to the austere school of Japanese alienation, this time fusing scripted drama with improvisation and documentary techniques. A rigorous emotional journey into the slowly deteriorating relationship of a young couple cracking under everyday pressures, this uncompromising debut takes Eastern ennui to extremes, but nonetheless should mesmerize its share of festgoers willing to be seduced by its indolent rhythms. Kei (Hidetoshi Nishijima), an aspiring actor frustrated with his lack of career breaks, lives with Yu (Eri Yu), an assistant in a women's clothing store. With no crystal-clear cause, general dissatisfaction and tension begin to take root in their relationship. Following a quarrel, Kei proposes marriage as the key to automatic happiness, and her refusal widens the distance between them. He falls prey to angst and anger, while she backs further away from him, eventually taking off without warning.

Charting an unendurable situation between a couple clearly in love but unable to live together, Suwa constructs a brooding, often quietly disturbing drama out of very little. Short arguments or outbursts of physical violence punctuate long silences in which the protagonists agonize about their inability to communicate with each other or with the few friends they see.

No-budget pic is shot in an unembellished docu style by Masaki Tamura, which sits well with Suwa’s clinical approach. The director is heard off-camera at times questioning Yu about her own behavior and her response to Kei’s.

2 Duo

Japanese

Production

A Bitters End production. Produced by Takenori Sento, Koji Kobayashi. Executive producer, Toshihiro Isomi. Directed, written by Nobuhiro Suwa.

Crew

Camera (color), Masaki Tamura; music, Nick Wood; art direction, Toshihiro Isomi; sound, Osamu Takizawa. Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival, Feb. 3, 1997. Running time: 108 MIN.

With

Eri Yu, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Makiko Watanabe.
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