A "Woman of the Dunes" suburban style, "The Volatile Woman" is an OK two-hander in which the basics of an imbalanced relationship are boiled down to the barest ingredients. Followers of indie Nippon fare will be interested in helmer Kazuyoshi Kumakari's low-budget approach -- especially after his horror-fest "Kichiku" -- but others will wonder what's so darn volatile about it.

A “Woman of the Dunes” suburban style, “The Volatile Woman” is an OK two-hander in which the basics of an imbalanced relationship are boiled down to the barest ingredients. Followers of indie Nippon fare will be interested in helmer Kazuyoshi Kumakari’s low-budget approach — especially after his horror-fest “Kichiku” — but others will wonder what’s so darn volatile about it.

Young Shunsuke Sawada plays the world’s worst thief — he keeps throwing up when things get hairy — who shows up at the gas station outpost run by a slightly older widow (Mitsuko Ishii) starved for company. After they take turns attacking each other with a large kitchen knife, they launch into a tricky pas de deux, alternately seducing and trying to get rid of each other. But her penchant for collecting butterflies suggests she won’t let him get away so easily. Helmer’s dry approach too studiously avoids both conflict and eros yet still manages to limn the basics of human connection. Jazzy trumpet score from single-named Akainu is a plus, and thesps get more engaging as the pic moves along. Sudden rush of activity provides a surprising lift at the end.

The Volatile Woman

Japan

Production

An Arcimboldo production, in association with the Love Collection Production Committee. (International sales: Open Sesame Co., Tokyo.) Produced by Naoya Narita. Executive producers, Ichiro Usui, Tadashi Ono, Hiroo Murakami. Directed, edited by Kazuyoshi Kumakari. Screenplay, Takashi Ojita, Kumakiri.

Crew

Camera (color, DigiBeta), Kiyoaki Hashimoto; music, Akainu. Reviewed at Vancouver Film Festival (Dragons & Tigers), Oct. 4, 2005. Running time: 82 MIN.

With

Mitsuko Ishii, Shunsuke Sawada, Hiroshi Omori, Mai Hishiko.
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