Erotic obsession, dark comedy and a pinch of crime thriller get whipped up and served in marginally titilating fashion in the awkard, very literally titled Eastern import Man, Woman and the Wall, which puts modern sexual fixation under the microscope in a manner out of step with much of contemporary Asian cinema.
When young magazine reporter Ryo (Keita Ohno) moves into a new apartment building, he’s greeted by the passionate sounds of his astonishingly beautiful neighbor Satsuki (Sola Aoi). Realizing the wall dividing their two apartments is paper thin, the captivated Ryo begins to eavesdrop on every detail of the life of the girl next door, from her conversations to her bubble baths. While Ryo’s fantasies slowly start to escalate into something halfway between puppy love and creepy obsession (he starts sifting through her trash and collecting her toenail clippings), Satsuki becomes increasingly hysterical over a series of bizarre, dirty phone calls plaguing her every evening. Her boyfriend Yuta (Hiroto Kato) shows up to reassure her, but things remain mysterious. When Satsuki and Ryo’s lives finally converge, delusions and reality further blur.
Written and directed by Masashi Yamamoto, Man, Woman and the Wall fitfully recalls all sorts of American touchstones, independent and otherwise — everything from The Conversation and sex, lies and videotape to even James Mangold’s Heavy — mainly owing to its subject matter, and frank inclusion of sex. Some of the movie’s small touches and moments translate surprisingly well (Ryo excitedly talks about his new apartment having a bathtub, inviting the derision of a coworker), and others are simply a surprise (scenes set at… Outback Steakhouse?). Still, there isn’t quite enough of a sadsack heart here — a sense of
inwardly imploding, swallowed doom.
The film appears shot on video, which could have been more imaginatively interwoven into the story, given the many opportunities for tongue-lolling luridness that both Ryo’s obsession and Satsuki’s phone calls present. In fact, Ryo seems at times a slightly goofy
character, and other times potentially dangerous or tragic. Narratively, Yamamoto’s use of an imaginary Satsuki (Sho Nishino) only further complicates matters, since the movie as a whole isn’t an explicitly subjective experience.
Housed in a regular plastic Amaray case, Man, Woman and the Wall comes to Stateside DVD via Ricochet Releasing, TLA Releasing and Eleven Arts, and is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen with a 2.0 stereo audio mix. For a film built around eavesdropping and other whispery intercepts, the latter is honestly a bit sub-par and problematic at times. The marginal graininess of the video transfer doesn’t offend too greatly, but this isn’t a superb transfer by any means. Special features include a minute-long, non-scrollable photo gallery montage, trailers for Man, Woman and the Wall and three other TLA features, and a 21-minute making-of featurette. In this subtitled segment, Yamamoto and his cast share their thoughts on production and explored themes, and Aoi confesses that she got into character by eavesdropping on cast and crew, with the assistance of some of the movie’s soundmen. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. C (Movie) B- (Disc)