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“Sharing an apartment with the wrong person can be murder…”

This inspired film came about as the result of a bet at the Berlin Film Festival between Tsutsumi and Azumi director Ryuhei Kitamura (who is also doing the next Godzilla movie): make a film about a duel to the death, with just one setting, two characters, and seven days shooting. Kitamura made Aragami about two samurai in a temple; Tsutsumi, however, came up with this, about two warring flatmates (the title is Japanese shorthand for an apartment with 2 bedrooms, a living-room, a dining-room and a kitchen – luxurious by the cramped standards of their cities). Specifically, two actresses who, over the course of an evening, discover they are not only the final contenders for the same part, they also want the same man…

The first half is an edgy comedy about the perils of sharing accommodation: one girl (Koike) is a country girl, new to the profession, but is the sort who puts her name on her food in the fridge, right down to individual eggs; the other (Nonami) is a seasoned pro, with few moral scruples, least of all about possessions. You just know it’s going to go horribly bad, and the girls’ true thoughts are conveyed by voiceovers, as they maintain a thin veneer of politeness, at least for the first 40 minutes. Then the gloves finally come off, and the pair brawl throughout the apartment, using every weapon at their disposal – samurai swords, bleach, straw mats, you name it. Though I do have to wonder, why the hell is there a chainsaw among all the elegant furnishings?

It does probably count as mean-spirited, but this is outweighed by surprising wit, and credit is due for being a very rare example of a film where you never see a man (you hear them on the phone, or in photos, that’s all). Tsutsumi does tend to push the camera in too close for the violence, when a more detached approach would perhaps be both better, and less confusing. At barely 70 minutes, it’s almost a throwaway, yet still remains largely entertaining, and is certainly unique.

Dir: Yukihiko Tsutsumi
Star: Maho Nonami, Eiko Koike

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