Saturday, April 27, 2013

Trans-Siberian Tokyo, Lost in Transition

by Drew Martin
I just saw a really interesting documentary called Girl Model (by David Redmon and Ashley Sabin), which actually works extremely well as a fictional movie. It left me with a haunting feeling, like I had just seen Rosemary’s Baby or something equally twisted.  There are two main characters, Ashley Arbaugh, a former model turned model scout who specializes in finding fresh teenage faces from Russia to bring into the Japanese fashion market, and Nadya, a noodle-thin Siberian girl who gets plucked from obscurity in Novosibirsk and sent to Japan to bunk with fellow Russian, Madlen. The two young girls are like fish out of water in Tokyo. They go to casting calls but get little work, and finally return to Russia, downtrodden and more than $2,000 (each) in debt to their agency.

The saddest part is that they come from beautiful, loving families, and a simple lifestyle. Nadya grew up sharing a bed with her bright-eyed grandmother, and takes saunas at home with her mom, who informs her that the Japanese sometimes only have a shower stall in their apartments. It is an absurd idea that makes them laugh.

The scout, Ashley, is a mid-thirties wicked witch of the West, who hated being a model but now fuels the inferno. She is pretty, but frigid, and lives alone in a spare modern home in Connecticut, shared only with two rubber baby dolls. She talks about wanting to have a baby but what we witness is something quite unsettling and a little freakish. Ashley has an operation to remove a large fibroid and cyst from her reproductive organs. She describes the fibroid as being the size of a baby’s head, and then shows a picture of a huge cyst: her egg developed so much on its own that it is topped with blond hair.

After going through the whole tragic cycle with Nadya, the film ends with Ashley back in Russia explaining to a small, local film crew that she is looking for new faces to bring to Japan. She promises “…every model has success in Japan, unlike other markets, where they might go into debt; they never do in Japan, they only win.” We see her selecting her next model, Maria, a 13 year old from Novosibirsk. It is like the final scene of a horror film, where the villain walks off in search of his next victim.

Click here to watch the trailer.