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  Snake of June, A A Close Watch
Year: 2002
Director: Shinya Tsukamoto
Stars: Asuka Kurosawa, Yûji Kôtari, Shinya Tsukamoto, Mansaku Fuwa, Tomoko Matsumoto, Ikko Suzuki, Tomorowo Taguchi, Susumu Terajima, Masato Tsujioka, Shûji Ôtsuki
Genre: Thriller, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: Rinko Tatsumi (Asuka Kurosawa) works at a Tokyo mental health centre on the helpdesk, answering calls from people concerned that they may be very troubled or even contemplating suicide. One day a co-worker tells her someone has come to see her, and she sees it is a very stern mother so grows nervous, but the woman is simply there to thank her for saving her young son's life, therefore Rinko is relieved. But one of those she helps has a very strange way of showing his thanks: photographer Iguchi (Shinya Tsukamoto), who begins to spy on her...

That's not all he does for his idea of getting his kicks is particularly perverted as he snaps photos of his target, capturing her in intimate moments and then sending her the pictures along with phoning her up insistently to blackmail her if she doesn't carry out various actions just as he orders. Of course, this being a film directed by Tsukamoto, with him playing the pervert, we should not be surprised that this set up not only starts out strange, but gets even weirder as Iguchi's obsession turns out to have a bizarrely benevolent effect on his target, although before she gets to that stage there's plenty of humiliation to endure.

It could be true that the trappings the director conjured up for his own offbeat take on the erotic thriller - which naturally isn't all that erotic at all in his hands - were more captivating than the story or even the themes, assuming you could work out what he was getting at anyway, but it appears to be a tale of bringing together a husband and wife, with Rinko the wife and her older, repressed and unresponsive partner Shigehiko (Yûji Kôtari) who prefers cleaning the sink to anything more intimate, the husband. So in its twisted way Iguchi could be considered their fairy godfather, except that he's out of his mind thanks to various factors, the most important one being he thinks he has nothing left to lose.

Which explains why he acts as grubbily as he does, putting his victim through a public embarrassment as he tells Rinko he will give her the negatives of her masturbating and - gasp! - trying on a miniskirt if she does exactly what he says. Quite how he manages to continue to watch her under these circumstances is a mystery as he seems to have near-supernatural powers of intrusion at his disposal, but before long the woman is wandering through a Tokyo shopping arcade in that miniskirt without any underwear and a vibrator stuck inside her. For all the thoughts that Iguchi may be getting sexually satisfied by seeing this, he doesn't appear to enjoy it too much, even less so when he notices something about the woman while he's playing Peeping Tom.

This ties in with Tsukamoto's usual obsession with bodily corruption and warping, but halfway through when we have the revelation about Rinko the plot begins to concentrate on her spouse, who in a twist that nobody could have seen coming winds up kidnapped, hands bound, wearing a cone over his face along with a group of other similarly attired men, getting a peepshow look at a couple first forced to have sex and then drowned in a large vat. Quite what that has to do with the rest of the movie is a mystery, presumably it was symbolic as the film builds to a flurry of crazed imagery, which includes Iguchi kicking Shigehiko with steel toecapped boots as his six foot long prehensile penis wraps itself around his neck. But that would appear to be less important than the couple rekindling (if it was ever kindled in the first place) their marriage, leaving Iguchi in a curious position, sort of a helpful degenerate if you can imagine such a person. More bemusing than anything else, but typical of its director. Music by Chu Ishikawa.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Shinya Tsukamoto  (1960 - )

Japanese writer/director and actor whose controversial, stylised films have bought him considerable notoriety in the West. His 1988 sci-fi body-horror debut Tetsuo: The Iron Man was a hit at international film festivals, and he followed it with the colour sequel/remake, Tetsuo II: Body Hammer. Other films include the supernatural yarn Hiruko the Goblin, boxing fetish tale Tokyo Fist, the urban drama Bullet Ballet, erotic thriller A Snake of June and mental breakdown drama Kotoko.

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