Not one round in the clip is wasted
- Bullet Ballet review by CS
I watched this Japanese film last night , by writer/director/ actor Shinya “Tetsuo: The Iron Man”. Like that classic , this is also shot in grainy black and white , employing frantic at times camerawork and some montage / animation briefly . It also has a Thirlwell/ Foetus style industrial soundtrack, and again deals with themes of alienation in a mega city.
Bullet Ballet, released in 1998,starts with Goda (played by the main man Shinya Tsukamoto) as a commercials director living in Tokyo who arrives home to find his wife has shot herself – either by accident or intent – with a .38 “chief’s special” revolver. Goda suffers a breakdown of sorts and becomes obsessed with getting himself a similar piece. This leads him into contact with various underworld characters and into direct conflict with a gang of so-called street ‘teamsters’ - Japanese youths who work straight jobs but commit gang crimes at night. It is said that the idea for the film came from an actual street robbery experienced by Tsukamoto and the film mirrors his own very real feeling of complete helplessness as the gang take his money and deliver a beating without a whimper of resistance. This is just the start, and the viewer is introduced to a wide selection of criminal characters and becomes involved in a gang war triggered by the demand for an “honour” shooting to save face by gang boss Idei, played by the convincing Tatsuya Nakamura, who tells his minion to “get on with the shooting” and treat it like a dream… “In dreams you can kill and not get hurt … Tokyo is one big dream”
The gun as a motif throughout the film gives a strong focus on the finality of pulling the trigger rather than just spraying everybody in a blur of flashing muzzles and deep red, and there are several intense “ will they or won’t they “ moments. Kirana Mano stands out as Chisato, a part time sex worker addicted to speed who comes across as a complex and deliberately contradictory person. However, it is the overall the style of the film : dingy back alleys, concrete industrial backdrops and claustrophobic camera shots emphasising the brutal relationships of the main players that is the real standout. This was often my experience of Tokyo at night when I lived there when out and about, in both places I went to and the type of characters encountered. To sum up, “Bullet Ballet” delivers an element of gritty realism to a believable storyline that makes sure not one round in the clip is wasted. Great punk-style movie-making.
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