How 2LDK came about is, you have director Yukihiko Tsutsumi sitting down with Ryuhei Kitamura sometime in 2002. And these guys, they like film, they certainly like each other. So the idea comes up maybe they should work together. Tsutsumi tells the story over and over, how neither of them are drinkers, how the restaurant they chose was perfect for their decision. While the world got sloshed, they set the rules for the Duel Project:
– 60 minutes long, 2 films, no R-18 rating.
– One set each. No one is allowed to leave.
– Two actors, both male, or both female.
– Both films must operate on the same budget.
– Both films must contain ‘mysterious’ similarities.
– Whoever attracts the least amount of business loses.
– Whoever attracts a higher TV audience wins a special award.
– Any director who makes a profit may receive a bonus.
– No complaints if we just do one movie together.
The result is a lovely mess. Kitamura went off to create Aragami, a blazing long old-school swordfight of a film. As for Tsutsumi, well – both directors agree he got the better end of the deal. The premise: two young model-actresses (Lana and Nozomi, played by Maho Nonami and Eiko Koike), both working for the same talent agency, come to lethal blows one terrible night over an upcoming role. The battleground: a “two-bedroom one-living dining kitchen” in central Tokyo. It’s a rather up-scale place; we learn quickly that the girls are guests, that the owner is away on some business or another. There is a “half-character” parrot overseeing the atrium. There are swords and sharp corners all about. There are eggs and chainsaws and fountains and electrical hazards. You can imagine.
Watching these girls brawl is far more fun than it ought to be. This is a movie you can’t help but tell your friends about, even if you don’t find much in the story. For enthusiasts, it’s easy to recommend: the way you watch, say, Suicide Circle for its moments, you watch 2LDK for the duration. Entertaining and digestible, it’s short enough – and surprisingly cute enough – to merit repeat viewings, in mixed company, even in the same night. And it’s likely to hold attention.
But does all this make the movie good? Well… it depends. How much you value any portion of 2LDK may bank on how much you know, or care to know, about its origin. To me, 2LDK needs the backstory to be what it is. To some, take away the ladder and what you’ve got is really not a lot apart from so much obvious dialogue and popcorn violence. TLA Releasing seems to have understood this in putting the DVD together. If you find that at 70 minutes the movie doesn’t qualify, then the hour-plus of featurettes and interviews are very welcome, and perhaps a little bit necessary. It certainly helps the purchase. It also results in a good deal more insight and background than I’ve been able to include here.
And then: 2LDK is alone in distribution (in North America), while an Aragami/2LDK box set has been available in Japan since January. Who made this decision? Tsutsumi’s half certainly isn’t lost without its pair, but especially under the Dual Project heading, it look a bit lonely, if not silly, on the shelf. What makes it so acceptable is knowing that “silly” is the heart of the thing.
Translation notes: Shohei Ikeda