||A Snake Of June
2002 - R - 77 Mins.
|Director: Shinya Tsukamoto|
|Written By: Shinya Tsukamoto|
|Starring: Asuka Kurosawa, Yuji Kohtari, Shinya Tsukamoto, Mansaku Fuwa, Tomorowo Taguchi,
Susumu Terajima, Masato Tsujioka
|Review by: James O'Ehley
|Official Site: www.asiaextreme.co.uk/|
A suicide hotline worker, Rinko (Asuka Kurosawa), is married to an older and balding salaryman, Shigehiko (Yuji Kohtari). They live in an anonymous Japanese metropolis where it is raining constantly (apparently June is the rainy season in Japan, hence the film’s title). In fact I haven’t seen this much rain in a movie since BLADE RUNNER! Every shot in the film (except for the interiors) are practically drenched in rain!
June is apparently Japan's rainy season - in case you haven't caught on . . .
On the surface their married life seems fine, but underneath tensions and repressed emotions simmer. Shigehiko prefers to spend time aimlessly staring out the window of a nearby diner telling instead of spending time with his wife, telling her that he is busy working overtime. Shigehiko also seems to have developed a nasty fetish for cleanliness, obsessively cleaning up the house all the time (and before you say that this sounds like the ideal spouse, just think about it for a moment).
Rinko has even bigger problems. One day she receives an envelope containing intimate photographs of her busy masturbating, taken without her knowledge. Who could have taken the photographs? And why? (And how?) Rinko has obviously attracted a nutcase voyeuristic caller from the suicide hotline, but who is he and what does he want? All will become clearer as the movie progresses – sort of.
In his book “Dogs & Demons” author Alex Kerr convincingly makes the case that there is something seriously amiss in modern Japanese society, and that it is because of the country’s relentless drive for urbanization which has led to them being cast adrift from nature. Think of the cityscapes in Japanese anime such as AKIRA and the depressing city in LOST IN TRANSLATION as well as the horror crime stories making their way into the media the past decade or so, then you’ll know what I’m talking about here.
After all, Japan - a country which is smaller than California - produces more concrete annually than the entire United States! The country is being buried under endless concrete in an orgy of construction spending and in the process the Japanese psyche is being scarred.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in this 2002 movie by Japanese director Shinya Tsukamoto (recently released on DVD by ASIAN EXTREME in the States). Tsukamoto is perhaps best known for his TETSUO: THE IRON MAN (1988), but is hardly a recommendation for this reviewer.
TETSUO was an exercise in pointless surrealism. It was a tiresome and shrill attempt to out-Lynch David Lynch’s ERASERHEAD with virtually no attempt at a narrative coherence whatsoever. Now, don’t get me wrong, but Surrealism is something that no-one over the age of thirty can take too seriously without muttering the word “pretentious” under his or her breath.
Director Shinya Tsukamoto must have grown up in the meantime since A SNAKE IN JUNE actually has some narrative focus (i.e., it has a story – sort of). Sure, it can still be described as “surreal and dark” and towards the end of the movie things veer off into incoherent “so is it a dream?” territory. But still: this time around, it is as if Tsukamoto is trying to out-Lynch David Lynch’s MULHOLLAND DRIVE (a movie which I insist has some sort of narrative logic and isn’t the plotless mess audiences thought it were – sort of), which is a good thing.
I was particularly surprised by this movie, expecting senseless cruelty and voyeurism, but found it be rather engrossing and beautiful to look at (the B&W photography tinged with blue is quite evocative). Well-acted, it is technically good for such a low-budget affair. Even when the movie started to lose focus towards the end, I was willing to forgive it its transgressions.
However, A SNAKE IN JUNE isn’t exactly for all tastes. Fans of European “art cinema” (and I don’t just mean the pleasant CINEMA PARADISO lite variety here) and of David Lynch’s more surreal efforts should check it out. You know who you are.