2LDK [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Unearthed Films
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (12th April 2022).
The Film

Country mouse Nozomi (Kamikaze Girls' Eiko Koike) and city mouse Rana (Rebirth of Mothra II's Maho Nonami) are actresses with the same talent agency, the boss of which has installed them both in a swanky apartment that used to house his mistress who has left behind "God incarnate" in a colorful parrot. Nozomi is a studious neat freak who labels all of hers and Rana's items in the refrigerator – even the individual eggs when Rana says that she can have some of them – who has not had a role yet, while Rana got her start doing semi-nude scenes in low budget exploitation flicks. Both are now up for a lead role in a feature film called "Yakuza Wives", and both are certain that they are going to get it. There is an edge to the remarks of encouragement that they offer to one another, and the complements grow increasingly backhanded as other resentments come to the surface, from Rana being oblivious to Nozomi's rules about not using her belongings to Rana discovering that Nozomi is indeed interested in the same man despite claiming otherwise (and trying to arrange a date behind her back). Over the course of an evening, the two actresses go from exploiting one anothers' insecurities – Rana's perception about Nozomi's virginity and frigidity, Nozomi surmising that Rana not so much worldly as gullible in her unlucky experiences with men – to attacking their very core identities; that is, their trophies, certificates, and souvenirs. The conflict quickly escalates from power tools to medieval Japanese weaponry in a showdown from which even the lone survivor may no longer be photogenic enough for the coveted role.

One of the films comprising the "Duel" project – a challenge proposed by director Yukihiko Tsutsumi (SPEC: Heaven) to fellow filmmaker Ryuhei Kitamura over a night of drinking to determine who could shoot the best film featuring only two actors and one principle location in the space of a week (Kitamura's contribution being Aragami) – Tsutsumi's 2LDK might have some subtext about the available roles of women in Japanese cinema and the treatment of actresses by "sleazeball" agents, but it is really more of a hyper-violent "roommate from hell" scenario in which both roommates are a bit cracked. The first half of the film is spent on a nuanced study of the contrasts between the two women, with Nozomi not only meticulously cataloging Rana's accessories and their prices (including sale prices) but also revealing the cattiness underneath her "nice girl" facade to the extent that the more oblivious Rana seems normal and relatable by comparison. One nay even cheer her when she discovers that she has inadvertently used her roommate's hair straightener and then gleefully smashes it; however, she is cracking up on the inside and finally snaps when Nozomi manipulates her with a disarming apology into a vulnerable position where she shares her inner demons and is cruelly mocked in return. The film does not so much "merge" the personalities of the two characters as in some more overtly-psychological dramas about women so much as strip away everything but the need or want not just to survive but to win at whatever cost (Rana is deluding herself when she tells Nozomi that all she will need is a good night's sleep to be presentable in front of the camera). Savvy viewers may be equally disarmed into expecting due to early remarks about the two women feeling like they are being watched by (out of all their talent agency colleagues) being installed in a swanky apartment and cutaways to the watchful parrot that their breakdown might be manipulated by outer forces for entertainment purposes. While Kitamura's feature debut Versus was a hit with more international exposure that Tsutsumi's prior three films, 2LDK would end up being the more widely-seen of the Duel films (presumably the "girl fight" aspect made it more attractive to foreign buyers). 2LDK's concept was more recently reworked to significantly lesser effect for the American film Roommate Wanted.


Released direct-to-DVD in the US and UK by Tartan Video – the former sub-distributed by TLA Releasing – 2LDK's high definition remastering on Unearthed Films' 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.78:1 widescreen Blu-ray is something of a revelation from the DVDs. Rather than a lush visual experience, we get what seems like either a realistic rendering of the location shoot with the saturation levels of the film's dιcor and wardrobe color choices effected seemingly by the set and location lighting (or the transfer technicians held back in the grading, but we have no information on whether the HD master was supervised or approved by Tsutsumi or commissioned by the licensor without consulting the director or cinematographer). While some of the CGI was obvious in the early-2000s sense, now much more apparent is a composite shot either because the actress who played Rana was not present for the shooting of the reverse angle of Nozomi or a needlessly complicated safety measure so that the actress would not have a real icepick pointed so closely at her face.


Audio options include DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and LPCM 2.0 stereo options. The film was released theatrically in DTS-Stereo, a 4:2:4 matrixed license fee-skirting alternative to Dolby Stereo compatible with Dolby decoders that was popular in Japan at the turn of the century (stateside, New Line, Warner, and MGM also used it throughout the nineties) while the Japanese and British DVDs featured DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 remixes – the US DVD only as well as some other international editions only featured stereo tracks – so presumably the discrete surround mix was created in Japan specifically for home video. The discrete and matrixed surround tracks make use of directional effects and the source music has some spread, but most interesting are the more unexpected sound design choices to emphasize the little things that set each characters' teeth on edge from chewing and slurping to the pummeling of water as the bathtub is filled at different points in the film. The optional English subtitles identify Rana as Lana but she is correctly identified elsewhere on the disc (including the commentary subtitles).


Ported from the Japanese release for the first time is the audio commentary by actresses Maho Nonami and Eiko Koike with English subtitle translation. The actresses discuss both being interested in the Rana role, shooting scenes of near-nudity, characterization – Nonami did not realize while the film was being made that her character had to be more than a couple years older than Nozomi going by throwaway references in the dialogue but that it suited her character to act younger, as well as not realizing that there would be an actual actor playing the dead woman who haunts her character – both of them getting sick on different shooting days, the film's fight scenes, and the long shooting days.

The "Making of 2LDK" documentary (18:12) covers the eight days of shooting with much of the script shot in sequence, Koike hooked up to an IV in between scenes during her sick day, the botched circular camera take mentioned by the actresses on the commentary, the staging of the fight scenes, a set visit from Maho's manager concerned about her image in the film, Tsutsumi contending with the draining effects of the shoot on the crew – particularly the last shooting day that ran twenty-four hours, and a breakdown of the fight scenes by weapon. The subtitle translation in the clips is occasionally different and even superior to the translation in the film (although this is a minor point).

The disc also includes the "Duel Production Briefing" (9:49) from 2002 in which Tsutsumi and Kitamura discuss the concept of "dueling directors" that came about over a night of drinking at the Japanese film festival in Cologne, Germany, as well as four screening and festival introductions by the director and stars – Video Message for the Theater Audience (5:04), Tokyo International Fantastic Film Festival Interviews (4:35), Premiere Screening Interviews (2:25), and Screening at Kudan Kaikan Interviews (3:04) – as well as a photo gallery (1:16), theatrical trailer (1:46), and trailers for other titles in the "Unearthed Classics" line.


Yukihiko Tsutsumi takes a "girl fight" beyond simple titillation to a "duel to the death" in 2LDK.


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