A Snake of June (2002)

Starring: Shinya Tsukamoto
Encoding: Region
1 (U.S. and Canada)
Color, Closed-captioned, Widescreen
Rated: Not for sale to persons under age 18.
Tla Entertainment Gr
DVD Release Date: February 22, 2005
Run Time: 77

DVD Features:
Behind the Scenes and Interviews
; Tartain Asia Extreme New Releases



Fans of Asian cinema in the States must be smiling: DVD label ASIA EXTREME is bringing out some rather interesting titles on this format, proving that there is more to cinema from that part of the globe than merely anime (not that there is anything wrong with anime of course). One of the latest releases is A Snake of June, by the director of Tetsuo: The Iron Man.

Now to be honest a film by the director of Tetsuo wasn't exactly a marketing blurb that invoked enthusiasm is this viewer. 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 because 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 incoherency ?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.

A suicide hotline worker Rinko (Asuka Kurosawa) is married to older and balding salary man, Shigehiko (Yuji Kohtari). They live in an anonymous Japanese metropolis where it is raining constantly (apparently June is the rainy season in Japan). 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!

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.

THE DISC: The image is presented full screen and before you start complaining, it actually seems to be closer to what is director intended if you watch one of the featurettes (actually he wanted the image to be a perfect square but couldn't do it because of technical and budget constraints).

The DTS sound mix is good (especially of all that falling rain!) and the film has two rather interesting featurettes and some trailers for upcoming ASIA EXTREME releases, one of which (Whispering Corridors, a horror movie - just what did you expect with a title like that?) will soon be reviewed on these pages.

My Japanese is nonexistent, but the subtitles seemed fine too, never lapsing into any of the Zen bon mots bad translations often throw up (see my review of Robot Carnival). All in all, not a bad disc at all.

WORTH IT? 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.

RECOMMENDATION: A Snake in June isn't for all tastes and isn't SF even though it serves up some dark disturbing imagery which would be familiar to those who have seen any of Terry Gilliam and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's darker efforts. Fans of European ?art cinema? (and I don't just mean the Cinema Paradiso variety here) and of David Lynch's more surreal efforts should check it out. You know who you are.

On the other hand, if you thought that Shark Tale and National Treasure were really neat, then you're advised to stay away from this one . . .



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