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'Lonely Affair' Lacking Emotional Connections


"The Lonely Affair of the Heart" is a handsome, intelligent film of rigorous austerity; unfortunately, for all its seriousness of purpose and fine performances, it's also a boring film about boring people.

It is hard to imagine an emptier existence than that of Rumi Sakakibara's Orie, whose well-off husband Shiraki (Masakane Yonekura) is 20 years her senior. He's provided his wife with a beautiful home in the traditional Japanese style in a woodsy, upscale hillside neighborhood.

One day, Orie, who has no apparent interests, activities or friends, is startled to discover a handsome young stranger (Kazuya Takahashi) at the entrance to her house. He calls out, "I'm home," but quickly adds, "I made a mistake" and leaves. When he returns to repeat himself, she persuades him to stay long enough for him to explain that he has been distraught over his lover leaving him while he was still mourning the death of his mother.

These two brief encounters are enough to trigger in Orie a sexual longing so strong that she begins imagining him returning again and again only to realize gradually that rather than a lover she is creating an alter ego with which to confront herself.

Working from a story by Masaru Baba, Suzuki peels away layer after layer in the lives of Orie and Shiraki, a tireless womanizer, but there's nothing very intriguing to uncover. That, of course, is most surely the point, but it takes a greater director than Suzuki to make the story and fate of such people involving. For all its psychological validity, the film is scarcely the revelation it means to be.

Not helping matters is that Suzuki takes such a stark approach to his material, much of the time employing a stationary camera that gives most scenes the feel of a filmed play. They lack the kind of emotional impact that characterize the films of the great Yasujiro Ozu, who could generate such tension with a similar approach.

Unrated. Times guidelines: mature themes, some sex and nudity.

'The Lonely Affair of the Heart'

Rumi Sakakibara...Orie

Masakane Yonekura...Shiraki

Kazuya Takahashi...Young Man

A Pathfinder Pictures release. Director Junichi Suzuki. Producer Tetsumoto Kosugi. Executive producers Ryuichi Suzuki, Junichi Suzuki. Screenplay by Masaru Baba and Chiaki Shibata; from a story by Baba. Cinematographer Yuichi Nagata. Editor Tsuyoshi Imai. Music Tatsuya Hirayama. Art director Namiko Iwaki. In Japanese, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes.

Exclusively at the Fairfax Cinemas, Beverly Boulevard at Fairfax Avenue, (323) 655-4010.

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