Americans love violence. You love it, I love it, from the brainless Summer action vehicle to deeper fare such as “The Passion of the Christ” there is something in violence that seems to connect to the American character. However despite our acceptance of human brutality in film and tv we seem equally repelled by material of a sexual nature. This odd double standard has existed throughout film history and has greatly limited the type of stories reaching American audiences. Thankfully while our acceptance of sexual content remains stunted world cinema has taken a different stance telling more erotically charged tales.
Resembling what “Eyes Wide Shut” would have looked like if directed by David Lynch, “A Snake of June” is an intriguing, complex examination of sexuality as seen through the eyes of Shinya Tsukamoto, best known for his cult classic “Tetsuo: The Iron Man”.
Rinko (Asuka Kurosawa), a shy phone operator for a mental health hotline, lives a peaceful lifestyle with her kindly but distant husband Shigehiko (Yuji Kohtari). However Rinko’s quiet home life is quickly thrown into turnmoil upon receiving pictures of herself masturbating in the mail. It turns out Iguchi (director Tsukamoto), a former hotline caller, wants to thank Rinko for her help by teaching her to deal with her sexual hangups…whether she wants the help or not. Having spied on her, Iguchi knows Rinko’s secret desires and begins to blackmail her into acting them out publically.
Where the film goes from here is what makes “A Snake of June” so successful. Instead of conforming to the cliches of the typical steamy late night thriller, “A Snake of June” manages to grow more complex as the film goes on, explaining the true driving force behind Iguchi’s altruism and further examining Shigehiko and his hangups. While this might sound vastly different from his previous work there are many distinct Tsukamoto touches. From a weird underground sex club to a steel toed boot beatdown to the generally trippy visuals (what is all that in the drain?) “A Snake In June” is an erotic thriller for those who have a taste for the bizarre.
Seeming to know that this odd three way relationship can only prove mysterious and engaging to an audience for so long, Tsukamoto is wise at leaving the film’s running time at a short 77 minutes. More films could learn from this lesson and allow their stories to be told in the time they need, instead of forcing needless padding upon them.
A departure (well sort of) from his previous work “A Snake of June” shows Tsukamoto maturing as a director. Not exactly what most people would call a date movie “A Snake Of June” goes places most American films wouldn’t dare and for that alone should be commended. Add in the fact that this has been a dream project for Tsukamoto for the past decade that manages to succeed given its low budget and strange subject matter, “A Snake Of June” proves to be a unique yet vastly rewarding experience.