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Vibrator

Melancholy, sensual road movie, pic centers on a boozing bulimic insomniac who finds respite from the voices in her head through a brief but heated relationship with a truck driver. A compelling drama, with echoes of Hiroki's background in Japanese pinku erotica movies. Ultra-specialized outlets for cutting-edge Asian cinema may provide post-fest exposure.

With:
Rei - Shinobu Terashima Okabe - Nao Omori Policeman - Tomorrow Taguchi

A melancholy, sensual road movie, “Vibrator” centers on a boozing bulimic insomniac who finds respite from the voices in her head through a brief but heated relationship with a truck driver. Arrestingly spare narrative is richly nuanced in mood and rhythm, making for a compellingly intimate drama, sexy yet tender, with echoes of director Ryuichi Hiroki’s background in Japanese pinku erotica movies. Ultra-specialized outlets with a feel for cutting-edge Asian cinema may provide post-fest exposure.

While stocking up on alcohol one night in a convenience store, Rei (Shinobu Terashima) sees handsome, bleach-blonde young truck driver Okabe (Nao Omori) and is gripped by the urge to touch him. Abandoning her groceries, she follows the driver outside, where he motions her to join him in the cabin of his truck. After a few awkward exchanges, they have sex, and the next morning, Rei asks him to take her along on his long-haul trucking run.

Despite their differences, they strike up an easy rapport. Rei is a writer with a stream-of-consciousness inner monologue and a tendency for morbid introspection; Okabe is an uneducated former Yakuza runner and pimp with a wife at home, who simply goes with the flow.

The vibrations of the truck, the blur of the passing landscape and even the anonymous voices from the CB radio give Rei some sense of the serenity she’s lacking. When her doubts and anxieties resurface to push her over the edge, Okabe proves unexpectedly understanding and calming.

Alternately romantic and carnal, the drama is a dreamy account of a strung-out woman’s cleansing and regeneration. But Haruhiko Arai’s screenplay, based on Mari Akasaka’s novel, refuses to offer tidy solutions or even long-term hope for Rei. Instead, the episode merely soothes her demons for a time, giving her the experience of love without its lasting salutary effects.

Terashima’s troubled performance conveys a desperate yearning for love but also the resigned self-awareness that Rei’s pain is a natural part of her. Omori also is strong, subtly revealing the capacity for feeling beneath Okabe’s braggadocio.

While intertitles expressing Rei’s thoughts are overused and jarringly sappy at times, the main force of this soulful chamber piece comes from its understatement, using eclectic music tracks and visual poetry to give shape to the characters’ complex emotions.

Vibrator

Japan

Production: A Cinequanon, Vibrator Production Committee presentation of a Studio Three production. (International sales: Gold View, Tokyo.) Produced by Akira Morishige, Takeshi Aoshima. Executive producer, Kisei Takahashi. Directed, edited by Ryuichi Hiroki. Screenplay, Haruhiko Arai, based on the novel by Mari Akasaka.

Crew: Camera (color), Kazuhiro Suzuki; music, Hikaru Ishikawa; production designer, China Hayashi; sound (Dolby), Akira Fukada; line producer, Hirohisa Mukuju. Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (New Territories), Sept. 2, 2003. (Also in Toronto Film Festival--Contemporary World Cinema.) Running time: 95 MIN.

With: Rei - Shinobu Terashima Okabe - Nao Omori Policeman - Tomorrow Taguchi

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