Doppelganger (2003)

Genres - Horror  |   Sub-Genres - Black Comedy, Psychological Thriller  |   Run Time - 113 min.  |   Countries - Japan   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Josh Ralske

Japanese horror director Kiyoshi Kurosawa lightens up with Doppelganger. The film opens with a typically unnerving story about a young man whose double mysteriously appears one day, apparently causing his death, and matter-of-factly takes his place. But once the (seemingly growing) phenomenon of the Doppelganger reaches the main character, Hayasaki, an obsessive scientist played by Kurosawa mainstay Koji Yakusho, the film takes an unexpectedly comic turn. This is not to say Kurosawa's film is a laugh riot. The humor is mostly sardonic and deadpan, and there's some mayhem and plenty of tension, in addition to the filmmaker's usual philosophical underpinnings, as Hayasaki's double sets about "helping" him sort out his life. At first, Hayasaki comically tries to avoid and ignore his double, but eventually, as he starts to get more control over his current project, the double seems to be improving his life. That device, a wheelchair-based robotic body for the paralyzed that operates according to the "will" of the patient, is used in some delightful sight gags. It may even be the most likeable character in the film. But Yakusho delivers a wonderfully droll dual performance, and Kurosawa uses split-screen effects brilliantly, keeping us guessing as to the true nature of the double and using the strong visual motif to explicate a complex and demanding study of the nature of self. Doppelganger is an amusing and thought-provoking diversion from a confident and clever filmmaker. Doppelganger was shown at the 2004 edition of Subway Cinema's New York Asian Film Festival.