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Movie Review: A Snake Of June (2002)

On the surface, Rinko and Shigehiko seem like a perfectly content married couple. Rinko, a counselor, is focused on her career, just as Shigehiko is focused on his. It's doubtful that there has ever been any intimacy between these two reserved individuals, but if there had, it has long since disappeared. And the fact that Shigehiko also happens to be a neat-freak, almost to the point of obsessive-compulsive, doesn't help matters. He won't even agree to her requests for a pet.

So one day, when Rinko is alone, her womanly desires get the better of her and she decides slips on an extremely short mini skirt. Feeling sexy, she proceeds to masturbate, completely unaware that someone was taking pictures of her. The person was Iguchi, a photographer she had counseled over the phone one day when he was feeling suicidal. She gave him a reason to live, and now he wants to help her, but these pictures are just the first step in his plan.

Iguchi mails Rinko the photos he took. He also sends her a cell phone, so that he can talk to her and help her do what she really wants to do, what he's seen her do when she thought she was alone. Iguchi tells her that if she wants the negatives, she needs to put on that short miniskirt, without panties, and go buy a vibrator. Rinko reluctantly follows his instructions, but as he prepares to give her the negatives, he gets the feeling that she hasn't done everything she really wanted to do.

A Snake Of June So he decides to continue. Now he tells her to put the vibrator in while leaving behind the remote control, and then has her head to the market. Once there, he instructs her to buy three specific types of fruits and vegetables, but only one each. As she is doing so, he activates the vibrator. Her performance satisfies him, and she obtains all the negatives. All but one, that is.

Iguchi recognizes something in the last negative that he sincerely hopes is not true. He makes another phone call to Rinko, but simply to say she needs to go see her doctor. And when she does, his fear is confirmed... she has breast cancer. For her to have any chance of living through it, she has no other choice other than to lose a breast. But Shigehiko is resistant to the idea, and so she doesn't go through with the operation.

A Snake Of June What follows is even more outrageous that what's happened thus far. Rinko begins to unleash complete self-confidence. Iguchi, who is nearing the end of his life due to cancer, begins to take a more active role in Rinko's life by drawing her husband, Shigehiko, into his game. And Shigehiko begins to break out of his comfortable, simple life, finds a new more balanced personality within himself, and learns what's truly important.

A Snake Of June This is a very artistic film. It doesn't have a lot of action or adventure, nor does it have a burning mystery to be solved, and yet I still really wanted to find out what was going to happen next. It was shot completely in black in white, with just the slightest tint of blue. It was filmed in fullscreen, like most television shows, as opposed to the standard theatrical widescreen. And also, there were several scenes throughout the film which not only didn't seem to fit into the continuity, but were just plain weird. Now, normally I don't like artsy flicks, almost just as much as I don't like musicals, so for all intents and purposes, I shouldn't like this movie... but I do! In fact, I actually really enjoyed this film.

A Snake Of June So it just goes to show you that there are always exceptions, like the musical Moulin Rouge. I would have never thought that I would have liked that movie, but I sat through the entire thing practically mesmerized. And so it is that I felt the same way watching A Snake of June. The blue-tinted black and white style, along with the constant and relentless rain that pours down throughout the entire film, really intensifies the emotions and the emotion conflicts of the characters.

The occasional weird scenes that are shown throughout the flick, although they don't make much sense, are really just plain fun to watch. Like the giant closeup on the snail, for instance. I found myself saying ewwwwwwww.... wow, that's cool looking. Or the scene where a bunch of men all sitting in chairs with their aimers chained behind their back and black cones covering their faces, and then they would all look in one direction at the same time, and then another direction, like synchronized looking. I didn't understand it, but it neat to see.

A Snake Of June I also liked there there really is no clear cut villain here. Really, who is the bad guy? The stalker, who want to help Rinko? The husband, who loves her is unable to really show her his true affections? Or Rinko herself, who let herself do what she really wants? All three main characters were intriguing. You can practically feel that these characters want to change, even if they don't realize it, and so you find yourself eagerly waiting to see how they're going to change and what they're going to become.

Snake of June is being released in the US on February 22 by Tartan Asia Extreme. It is directed by Shinya Tsukamoto, and won the Special Fantasy Award and the award for Best Actress at Oporot International Film Festival in 2003.

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