The Duel Project (Aragami and 2LDK) (4 stars)

The Duel Project (Aragami and 2LDK)

(18) 145min (Tartan Asia Extreme DVD rental/retail)


The result of a challenge given to two promising young Japanese directors by Shinya Kawai, the producer of Ring, this taut double feature is an exercise in disciplined filmmaking. Both films, Ryuhei Kitamura’s Aragami and Yukihiko Tsutsumi’s 2LDK were made on condition that they each feature only two characters (one of whom dies), in one location, and that the shoot lasts no more than eight days.

Aragami, then, is the tale of a wounded samurai who finds refuge in a temple, and awakes to find himself healed by the titular war god. It’s stern-faced and sincere in its love of action posing, but the strobe-lit swordfight sequences are incredible. 2LDK, however (a story of two competing actresses who share a flat in modern-day Tokyo) is the better film, an atmospherically shot and ridiculously violent mixture of biting satire and sharp character work. Would that more Western cinema aspired to such experiments. Extras include a 2LDK behind the scenes feature, trailers, deleted scenes and cast interviews.

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