Antenna (2001)

Run Time - 127 min.  |   Countries - Japan   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Wholly discomfiting, sometimes irritating, and frequently just plain silly, Kazuyoshi Kumakiri's Antenna offers a dark, dreary look (nicely captured by the cinematography of Takehide Shibanushi) at a family torn asunder by the unexplained disappearance of a child. The film focuses on Yuichiro (Ryo Kase), the tormented older brother of the missing girl, as he struggles to deal with the gaps in his memory, and the guilt he feels over her disappearance. There's a genuine sadness and a sense of loss at the core of the film that helps to ameliorate its excesses to some degree. But it is excessive. After the third or so scene of Yuichiro howling while abusing himself, one begins to think that the film may really be a cautionary tale about how painful it is to masturbate without lubrication. There's a surprising tenderness to Yuichiro's encounters with Naomi (Akemi Kobayashi), the dominatrix with a heart of gold, that gives their scenes an unexpected frisson, and Ryudo Uzaki, who plays the psychic investigator Soma, delivers a wryly understated performance that suggests he alone among the cast recognizes how absurd the material plays. The film is well shot, and it's obtusely creepy in the way of some of the best J-horror (e.g. Ringu, Ju-On), but it doesn't deliver many scares. To be fair, it doesn't seem intended to, but its overblown anguish and scattered plotting also prevent it from building to anything emotionally satisfying.