Understandably, Nagara blames his daughter's death on her boyfriend David (Sergi Lopez), a Spanish wine dealer. He wants David's blood and orders his chief flunky to make arrangements. How exactly the arrangements are made is unclear, but we're shortly introduced to Ryu (Rinko Kikuchi), a seafood butcher by trade with an odd habit of visiting cemeteries and compulsively cleaning certain graves. We see her through the eyes of our narrator, a sound-recording technician who admires the way Ryu slurps ramen noodles. Objectively, we infer that the graves belong to people whom Ryu, who moonlights as an assassin, has killed. David is her next target.
Ryu: I didn't know there were sensual wines.
David: Why not? Everything can be sensual.
But while Coixet has something interesting to say about the trouble with love, her film ends up being little more than eye candy, all too easily indulging in exotic eccentricity for its own sake. It's handsomely shot, but in a generic way, with the predictable godlike views of Tokyo at night. It burdens itself with pointless quirkiness, showing us not once but twice a person dressed as a shrubbery in a subway station and a group of young people who meet periodically to commemorate different emotions on orders from a meagphone-wielding master. First it's Kiss Day, and later it's Anger Day, and both times Ryu wanders through the absurd scene to illustrate her loneliness and alienation. The point was made the first time. Even the eroticism and the display of two would-be international stars in the nude must compete for your eye with the gimmick of a hotel room in the shape of a Paris Metro car, complete with standing-room accessories. Coixet is too self-conscious about creating pretty pictures or odd images. That and a very predictable tragic finish make Mapa de los sonidos an essentially superficial film. Whether you like it or not will depend on how you like the imagery, but this is a case where style may have undermined the substance of a potentially better movie.