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Marronnier (Kobayashi Akira 2004)


Marronnier [the subtitle should be: Run Like Hell]

Genre: Craptastic and Wholly Avoidable Doll-Zombie Schlock

Version reviewed: Region 1 subtitled DVD

Preferring the eternal beauty (and blissful silence) of dolls to real-life women a sissy mad scientist methodically abducts blossoming cuties and converts them into tiny wax marionettes. The resulting CREEPY doe-eyed dolls not only become a mega-hit with Tokyo consumers but soon end up walking, talking, and occasionally spilling goopy eyeballs and body parts onto their now screaming owners. Based on the manga by Ito Junji, this is truly one god-AWFUL film.


This film stinks so bad I feel compelled to first explain how it even got here...

An obvious shift has taken place over the past year as regards the willingness and eagerness of US distributors to purchase rights to and release Japanese horror (and other) films, all in the hope of hitting it big with a new Ringu or Juon. Most of the time, this new strategy works well for j-cinema fans, providing subtitled versions to otherwise inaccessible films. But then there inevitably arises those cases wherein over-eager (and non-discriminating) distributors release THE WORST OF STENCH BALLS upon an unsuspecting and generally trusting audience.

This brief historical description (and in particular the part about STENCH BALLS) explains how on the "New Releases" rack of my local BlockBuster video store I (misfortunately) found Marronnier between highly acclaimed Million Dollar Baby and Machinist. If you happen to read this before you too stumble upon Marronnier, far far luckier are you than I.

Director Kobayashi Akira whose directorial career starts (and likely ends) with this film, enlisted the aid of author Ito Junji (whose manga of the same title is the source of this film) in producing this manga-based horror. (Ito himself makes an appearance in the film (as the outdoor painter) -- a fact one can only fathom by "realizing" (ie, sincerely hoping) Ito could not possibly have then known the massive turd he was encouraging.)

I have heard several creative excuses made for the (universally negative) impact this film has had on its audiences. One such rumor suggests that this was merely an amateur student film produced with the help of Ito. I personally don't quite see the value of this argument since it only justifies the general consensus that this films looks and feels like a craptastic basement production. (As to whether or not Kobayashi was a actually a film student when he directed this, I could not find any corroborating suggestion.) A second approach suggests that the (mind-jarring) piece-meal editing of the film is actually an intentional cinematic mimic of the illustrated frames of a comic-book (manga) -- particularly Ito's manga. I agree this is a pretty clever way of looking at Marronnier, but I have yet to encounter a series of illustrated comic frames which caused such a migraine of the imagination as this film.


There's this dollmaker guy Iwata who after throwing the corpse of his wife in backyard pond discovers that his backyard pond has the unique ability of transforming flesh into wax. How does he discover this? Well, he retrieves his wife's corpse after a time of ripening and then shaves her down into doll-size. (The scene reminded me of watching the greek artisans carve my gyro meat...). So now Iwata's got a doll of his beloved wife, eternally beautiful. So what does he do? He sells it on the open market for mega-yen and quickly becomes a renowned doll (marronnier) artisan.

And then the simple economic laws of supply and demand kick in, requiring Iwata to hire an assistant whose own doll fetish soon has him pilfering young lovelies off the street to convert them rather directly into waxen idols. This involves a lot of rather gruesome schlock gore and an increasingly large zombie-doll population ready to kick some retributive human ass.


Marronnier is inexplicably bad, and you know  my speciality is somehow watching and then trying to explain really bad films. But this one was simply no fun at all to watch. I think half my anger is due to the fact that this film in no way deserves to appear on mainstream video store shelves even hinting itself as representative of Japanese film. This film is only representative of the desperate need for the law of "survival of the fittest".

This is not even campy-bad like Stacy or Junk. This is just BAD bad, and I honestly can not recommend you spend even the four dollars (which Blockbuster outrageously charges for crap like this) to see this, unless you truly desire that moment of clarity wherein you will inevitably say to yourself: "NOW I MYSELF KNOW what sarudama was ranting about."

You may now consider yourself thoroughly and passionately warned (by a well-intentioned but now sadly traumatized soul).

Version reviewed: Region 1 (Arrrgh) DVD. Available at US Blockbusters, NetFlix and other unwitting accomplices.

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
This may *detract* from your appreciation of Ito-inspired films. Plot-irrelevant, over-the-top schlock gore from the opening moments onward. NO, despite what you're thinking about the possibilities of the dolls. Must kill this TURKEY!

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