The Doppleganger Production Committee asks: "What would you do if you ran into your perfect double, your "doppelganger"-someone who looks exactly like you?" Well?
Doppelganger opens like so many classic thrillers; with violins a-screeching and horns a-screaming. This self-described "most frightening film yet" plays like a intellectual thriller, not the hellish nightmare spelled out by the movie's main tagline.
The movie jumps back and forth between to story-lines, happening concurrently. Firstly, we see Yuka (Hiromi Nagasaku ) leaving a home improvements store. She sees her brother, Takashi, wondering in the store parking lot. Yuka offers him a ride back to their house with her, but Takashi sullen and hunched over, continues to walk away with only a short glance back. When Yuka gets home, a phone call informs her that Takashi is at the area hospital, deceased. This news shocks and surprises Yuka, because Takashi is writing on his computer, in his room.
Cut to Hayasaki (K?ji Yakusho; Cure). He's a company idea-man who, with his two assistants Takano and Aoki, is working to perfect his newest project; an "artificial body" that has promise to help the paralyzed. After a successful test of the chair in front of the company's board, Hayasaki is pressured by the department head to either finalize the project or take a management position and let someone else finish his work. He refuses. The company is putting heavy pressure on him and his small staff. Frustrated, Hayasaki heads home to find...Hayasaki sitting in his chair! The film continues to give us alternating tastes of Hayasaki's and Yuka's stories until they soon find themselves sitting across from each other at a diner. They both have similar problems.
Now don't be alarmed, I haven't said anything that spoils the film, on the contrary, the film is so crazy and (seemingly) jumbled, especially the final third, that there's plenty left to enjoy. There's never any doubt from the very beginning that the doppelganger is real. Kurasawa tells us as much by naming the movie as he does. What should be taken into account though, is that Doppelganger isn't quite horror. It may be a touch psychological, with a pinch of suspense; but if it's one thing, it's heavy on the humor. And satire. Kurasawa deftly employs the split-screen to give us simultaneous views of not only Koji Yakusho's fantastic dual portrayal, as he and himself jockey around his apartment, but also for some cat & mouse action later on in the film.
Doppelganger is fantastic. That's where some seem to part ways with me. Kurosawa isn't known to just slap together a film or not to have a purpose for what he's shooting. After a couple of viewings, I finally saw the brilliance of this movie. It lies not only with the superficial notion of one having a doppelganger, and how a person's duality comes into being under certain circumstances and what might spark such the event, albeit a questionable one. There's some dialogue in the film to support this. I don't know if others are overlooking it. What's even more fascinating, is that the movie itself acts as a character. The first half is tense, ambitious, and wrought with friction. It's dark. And we see that in the characters themselves. The latter half is quite different. One might say, "the opposite" of the first. Irreverent, lively and snappy. It's filed with light and life; and dare I say meaning? It supports the first have quite nicely. Which makes for a hell of a film.
The film is a much deeper film than most give it credit for and is wildly original, much in the way a certain Katsuhito Ishii film is. I laughed out loud at the crazy times. And I gasped at every swing of an object bound for someone's cranium. A bold piece of work. Kiyoshi Kurosawa, with the help of the ever-present Koji Yakusho, has done it again.