The Film (4/5)
Rinko (Asuka Kurosawa) is a phone counselor at a suicide prevention hotline, and married to Shigehiko, a cleanliness obsessed salaryman who tends to spend a lot of time away from the apartment, so much so that he and Rinko are more like roommates than a married couple. That being said their relationship on the surface seems amiable, that is until one day when Rinko receives a package labeled "Your Husband's Secrets" in the mail. Upon opening the package a series of photographs of Rinko masturbating is revealed.
The photographer is a man called Iguchi a man that Rinko formerly counseled out of a suicide attempt, and now wants to help Rinko out of her drab existence. He calls her, and offers to turn over the negatives if Rinko will perform the acts contained on the photographs in public. He does this not for his own perverse desire, but to break her out of her frigid shell, and in a way help her gain some feeling in her life. After she complete the act, the negatives are turned over, but one more phone call is made from Iguchi to Rinko to reveal something tragic he discovered in the photographs that she must reveal to her husband, something more important, and if she does not, he will confront him with the pictures and what he knows.
Shinya Tsukamoto started his career off with the shock cinema feature Tetsuo: Iron Man. The film was Tsukamoto's cyberpunk riff on Lynch's Eraserhead, and while it all seemed very surface, the visual style was, and is enough to recommend the film to this day. 2002's Snake of June holds true to the aesthetics laid down by Tsukamoto early on in his career, but much more refined and mature both thematically and visually.
A Snake of June was shot in 16mm black and white before being blown up to 35mm, and tinted blue. The blue tinting was apparently done to hide the graininess of the 35mm, but also to match the rainy atmosphere of Japan in June. Whether intentional or not the blue also does an effective job of conveying the individually loneliness of the 3 main characters. 2 of whom are dying, and one of whom might as well be.
The film feels altogether more human and less mechanical than Tsukamoto’s early features, while still keeping some of that inhuman mechanical touch that is distinctly Tsukamoto. It feels like with a Snake of June Tsukamoto found a way to create a solid balance between his abstract and surrealist tendencies, and also create something more coherent, and emotionally satisfying. Though the film's third act does play around with the notion of reality and dreams a bit, and is slightly muddled, it does not detract from the power of the film as a whole.
Third Window Films presents a Snake of June in a 1080p AVC encoded transfer that was overseen by Shinya Tsukamoto himself. It is presented in the films original 1:33:1 aspect ratio and is truly a beautiful image. First thing to get out of the way, the film is indeed tinted blue as the director intended. The detail present is absolutely fantastic, and a healthy non-obtrusive level of grain.
The audio is presented in a quite solid DTS-HD 5.1 track in English. The track is also quite good with dialogue, and ambient sound coming through nicely.
Third Window Films have assembled a solid extras package for their release of a Snake of June. The Blu-ray kicks off with a 25 minute Q&A with director Shinya Tsukamoto. There is also a 20 minute BTS documentary from 2002. There is also a fantastic, and informative commentary track by Tom Mes, and a selection of other Tsukamoto features released by Third Window.
Some might view A Snake of June as an erotic thriller, and they wouldn't be wrong. However, the film goes much deeper than that, and offers a mix of powerful characters moments, with strong and bizarre visuals. The Blu-ray from Third Window films offers up an excellent transfer with solid audio as well, and the extras offer an excellent insight both into the film itself, and the director. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.