Genre: Erotic Thriller
review in one breath
A Snake of June is a 2002 film directed by Tsukamoto Shinya. Tsukamoto has an impressive and creative career in both acting and directing. He has appeared in numerous films, many of which he also directed. Films in which he holds this dual role (of director and actor) include Tetsuo (1988), Tetsuo 2 (1992), Bullet Ballet (1998) and A Snake of June, the film under review here. Other films which Tsukamoto directed (but did not appear in) include Hiroku: Goblin Hunter (1990) and Gemini (1999).
As a director Tsukamoto often prefers highly stylized presentations and in at least four of his films shoots entirely in monochromatic colors. A Snake of June is such a film, presented throughout in blues, grays and black. The choice of blue as the predominant tint likely corresponds to the metaphorical role of rain in this narrative. The film's title A Snake of June amounts to a one phrase parable which the film itself unpacks and explains. June (Rokugatsu) is Japan's rainy season (tsuyu) characterized by prolonged and drenching downpours. A phenomenon accompanying these rains, which the film's title refers to, is the forced emergence of snakes whose underground lairs have flooded. Thus the "Snake in June" is the snake who is forced out into the open due to harsh (weather) conditions.
This little scenario becomes the backbone of the story told in Tsukamoto's A Snake of June. The "snakes" here are the three main characters, all forced out of their hidden and private lairs by the "rain", which although is literally present as a continuous, torrential downpour throughout the narrative, actually alludes to the impending painful and cancerous death which two of the characters face. It is thus this disease and impending death which forces each of our characters to come out of their internalized spheres and grasp their remaining life through new perspectives. It is this journey of stark realization, emergence and renewed appreciation of life which A Snake of June is all about and forcefully delivers.
Iguchi (Tsukamoto) is a photographer (specializing in the libidinous arts) who is in the final stages of a painful cancer eating through his body. Out of despair, he calls a Mental Health Clinic's telephone hot-line and is talked through his fears by Tatsumi Rinko (Kurosawa Asuko), a sincere and compassionate phone counselor. Due to Tatsumi's influence, Iguchi regains his desire to live and subsequently dedicates his remaining time to a task he believes will benefit her. He will force her to come out of her inhibitions and live life as she truly is, which in Tatsumi's case involves living life as a very HOT (!) babe who, among other things, walks through busy train stations in a very tiny mini-skirt with no underwear and "befriends" a massive battery-powered dildo. (!!)
To reach this goal Iguchi must employ a rather unethical method wherein he takes compromising photos of Tatsumi and mails them to her. He then calls her and suggests that if she wants the negatives to the photos, she will need to follow his demands. Failure to do so will result in him notifying Tatsumi's husband Shigehiko (Koutari Yuji). Through this type of blackmail Tatsumi is then forced to live out what she had secretly fantasized about, and before long, Tatsumi's repressed inner-self slowly emerges (and begins moaning very loudly in ecstasy with the help of her massive undulating rubber phallus! Yowza!).
When Tatsumi is suddenly diagnosed with cancer herself, Iguchi's task takes on a new fervency and soon the selfish, obsessive-compulsive husband Shigehiko is intentionally brought into the game out of Iguchi's anger at the inadequate care Shigehiko provides his wife in her greatest time of need. As his own life slowly ebbs through the encroaching death of cancer, Iguchi pours his last ounces of energy into bringing about the uninhibited self-realization of Tatsumi and the punitive education of Shigehiko.
This film is both visually jarring and emotionally powerful. The imagery, cast throughout in bluish hues, paints bleak and rainy external worlds juxtaposed an almost overwhelming sexuality permeating our characters' internal worlds. The gradual emergence of these internal worlds is realized through both healthy and perverse sexual expression, accounting for the film's "erotic" character. This sexual preoccupation is only the means to a more powerful end however, namely the utter self-realization and re-evaluation by each of the three characters. And this end comes across very powerfully in the resolution to the narrative.
This was a fairly absorbing film chocked full of visually effective styles and images. There is both action and contemplation here, alongside some bizarre scenarios. The content is undoubtedly for mature audiences, as is the movie's overall theme which is in essence a stark exploration into the meaning of death and dying.
Version reviewed: Region 0 DVD (HK release. Includes English and Japanese subtitles)
|Director Tsukamoto Shinya here creates another characteristically stylistic world in which characters are forced to redefine themselves.||Steel-toed boot kicks to the face. Forced drownings in large glass tank as horny bald men look on.||Plenty of nudity, copulation and self-titillation and all the loud vocalizations that go with these.||This is a fairly effective morality tale drawn entirely in blue hues and often bizarre imagery.|