Tsukamoto Shinya’s A Snake of June (2002)
Pictures in the Rain

Tsukamoto Shinya’s tantalising, photographic tale charting a woman’s sexual reawakening in a modern Japanese city carries with it one of the most irritating and at times infuriating aesthetics cultivated outside of the contemporary avant-garde. Shot in CCTV blue, with a fevered editing style, A Snake of June benefits hugely from Tsukamoto’s thematic preoccupations as both an observer of the human figure and impressionistic storyteller, but less so from his lofty intentions as a cinematographer or lover of montage. When characters find themselves alone, his camera wanders skyward, searching for some inelegant truth in the shadowy projection of rainfall cast on the wall behind and finding little or nothing of the sort. The film, of course, stands up far better than this line of criticism suggests, for even in its crudest hallucinatory moments a powerful emotional balance is struck, such that one cannot overlook the beauty, virtue, or achievements of its scenes. In this, A Snake of June achieves what its predecessors Tetsuo (1989), Tokyo Fist (1995) and Sôseiji (aka, Gemini, 1999) largely cannot. An almost total absence of the biomechanical tricks and mannerisms of those films is one of several indications that Tsukamoto is comfortable with his discovery here, that he is content or confident enough in the story’s intrinsic value to merely observe how one relationship rebuilds another.

At its core, A Snake of June is an accumulation of increasingly daring, excited experiences which, taken together, offers a glimpse of the importance and power of seduction to a woman confined by the mechanical orthodoxy of a marriage lacking concord, passion and love. Little of this is in any way original (think of Body Heat, think of The Postman Always Rings Twice) but the effect nonetheless is spellbinding, and come the final scene surprisingly moving.

Before this, however, Tsukamoto devotes a lengthy scene to the climax of this revolutionary movement in our protagonist Rinko’s life, her erotic imagination no longer teased and stimulated by the intervention of an other but instead excited by and for only itself. Having braved and survived the earlier demands of her blackmailer, a photographer who is shown in the opening scene literally bringing off a woman with his camera, Rinko (played by Kurosawa Asuka) now leads blackmailer (Iguchi, a role for Tsukamoto), husband (Shigehiko, taken by Kohtari Yuji), and it goes without saying film and audience into a desolate back alley where the thick summer rain churns the ground to a crescendo. There she succumbs amid all this noise and provocation, stimulated by the remote vibrator between her legs and brought to exhaustion by her own ascendancy, desire and domination. It is the moment of cruel freedom traditionally afforded female virginal subjects in classical works of art, the brief respite before fate’s evil intervention.

18 July, 2010


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