« Deborah Kerr: 1921 - 2007 | Main | Coffee Break »

October 19, 2007


vital 1.jpg

Shinya Tsukamoto - 2004
Tartan Video Region 1 DVD

Even though it is marketed as another J-Horror entry, Vital indicates that Shinya Tsukamoto has more on his mind than frightening his audience with another genre excersise. The scenes that could easily be played for easy screams from the squimish are quite restrained. Tsukamoto is more interested in reflecting on the alienation felt by his characters, and how memory brings some people closer while driving others apart. To a certain extent Vital even made me think of Antonioni with the beautiful would-be lovers who will never get together, the fascination with the modern city, the empty rooms and abstract looking landscapes.

On the surface, the story of a medical student who dissects the body of his dead girlfriend is not only preposterous, but probably considered unethical. Beyond the questionable premise is the exploration of a young man, Hiroshi, attempting to regain lost memories by exploring the corpse of Ryoko. In the meantime, fellow student Ikumi finds that as attracted as she is to Hiroshi, she cannot compete against the woman who reappears in Hiroshi's dreams.

vital 2.jpg

Tsukamoto breaks away from his narrative to concentrate on abstract images of buildings, shadows, smoke and rain. More interested in the living than the dead, there are close-ups of the three main actors - Tadanobu Asano, Kiki and Nami Tsukamoto. Most astonishing of all is Nami Tsukamoto, unrelated to the filmmaker. A ballet dancer, she is given two scenes of brief solo dancing. The dances appear to be butoh inspired, particularly with the jerky, convulsive movements. Shinya Tsukamoto almost undermines the beauty of Nami Tsukamoto's dance on the beach with too much camera movement. The kinetic glory of this scene is so good that an except has been included in Tartan's teaser reel of their Asia Extreme films. There is enough visual beauty in Vital to make me hope that Shinya Tsukamoto might break away from the horror genre, much as David Cronenberg has, at least enough so that more people are aware of his artistry.

vital 3.jpg

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at October 19, 2007 12:18 AM