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BODY TEMPERATURE, 2011, Japan, Dir: Takaomi Ogata
One of the greatest gifts cinema can give us is the ability to stare without interruption at the private lives of other human beings. We can look on without being seen and witness the moment-to-moment activities that make up another persons day. This often means confronting painful truths about ourselves or at the very least being forced to empathize with an individual we might not ordinarily invest our time trying to understand.
In BODY TEMPERATURE that individual is Rintaro (Chavetaro Ishizaki), a lonely man who works from home and leads a quiet life of isolation. His free time is devoted to Ibuki, the sex doll he believes to be his girlfriend of six years. He assists her with getting dressed, shopping for clothes, going for walks, and even making love. We observe Rintaro as he spends quality time with his significant other and the camera always stares on intently, free of comment or judgement. We are left to arrive at our own conclusions about his behavior as the filmmakers have no interest in directing our feelings about him one way or another. Rintaro’s hermetically sealed world starts to open uncontrollably when he encounters a woman named Rinko on the street. She just so happens to look like his precious Ibuki which causes unexpected urges with him. They begin an awkward courtship and the story starts to develop beyond the confines of Rintaro’s solitary existence.
Director Takaomi Ogata makes a very interesting choice in his portrayal of the events by having real-life AV star Rin Sakuragi play both the flesh and blood Rinko AND the inanimate Ibuki. In doing this he allows us to see everything from Rintaro’s perspective from the very first moments. Ibuki may not be able to move or speak but she is nonetheless a real person to Rintaro so that is how we see her as well. Sakuragi is exceptional in the film and she somehow manages to impress equally whether she is lying still as a lifeless doll or carrying her share of the traditional dialogue scenes. She handles a lot of difficult scenes with a vulnerability that is essential to keeping the film from veering into exploitation territory.
The sex in the film is worthy of discussion. The scenes between Rintaro and Ibuki are intriguing in that we are seeing two living people but being asked to acknowledge the consciousness of only one. The human brain is simply not able to do this. We are always aware that it is a sentient being being touched and prodded which makes our perspective a strange reversal of Rintaro’s. He ignores the falsehood to believe his own reality while we must ignore reality and constantly remind ourselves of the illusion at work. It’s a strange vantage point to have and it creates a subtle tension that can’t be shaken while the film unfolds. BODY TEMPERATURE isn’t the easiest film to watch nor is it the easiest film to recommend. It is, however, an extremely well-executed character study that deserves your time and respect.
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