Goda seems to be having a pretty good life. He is a successful television commercial maker who seems to be quite and demand. Also he has had a steady relationship with his long time girlfriend for ten years. However, one night while he is out having a drink, his girlfriend commits suicide. It soon becomes evident that his girlfriend had close ties with the underworld and had somehow acquired a pistol which she used to end her life. Although suffering a horrible tragedy, Goda seems to be in control of himself, and his co-workers seem to think that he is actually doing better despite the fact that his girlfriend committed suicide. However, this is not quite the case. Goda is seething underneath, wondering how his girlfriend got a hold of the pistol and he soon becomes obsessed with acquiring the gun like the one his girlfriend used to kill herself. This draws Goda into the underworld himself and he seeks the help oh yakuza members and foreign crime elements to attain his desired possession. However, because he is unsuccessful, Goda makes his own gun.
Mr. Tsukamoto has created a film about the lure of non-redemption and brilliant shoots it almost documentary style. The other characters, especially the brooding model like Kirina Miao as Chisato, are also good, but this is Mr. Tsukamoto’s film. Obtain the DVD, which has an interview with him taken years later in which he answers certain questions about the film. It is a candid view of his process and idea. This movie is very in your face and its effectiveness in spreading the message of violence and hopelessness is fascinating. For those trying to get an idea of what to expect, well it’s the kind of surrealistic dreams that are often thought of by David Cronenberg and David Lynch. If you follow that path and walk with such minds than you should take a walk with Shinya Tsukamoto and see Bullet Ballet.
The film has a sort of hyperactive sense of realism to it. Largely contributed to by the hand held camera work that is employed extensively, but also the black and white seems to help the audience take what they are watching seriously. Like the British realist films of the 1960’s. The pace of the editing is often absolutely frantic, with much use of the montage technique and, like Vertov did in the 1920’s Tsukamoto drops in black frames here and there, along with other shots for a rhythmic sense in many sequences. Despite my great adoration for the film, I would say that it sometimes seems to suffer from underdeveloped plot. There is at least one lengthy (but quite stunning) chase sequence, concluding in a great deal of violence that for its duration does not add a great deal to the plot. Prior to seeing ‘Bullet Ballet’ I had seen Tsukamoto’s ‘A Snake of June‘ which I found to be equally impressive.
The sexual overtones of the movie are quite obvious, while the stated theme of “man’s need to create violence” is a little more subtle. One thing I really liked about this movie is that although it’s quite stylized, like most maverick Asian entertainment out there, Tsukamoto shows a real grasp of montage and experimental film-making on top of the narrative continuity needed to direct the audience’s emotions as much as compel their intellect. Some of the most memorable uses of back-projection, intercutting, and hand-held cinematography are used with a movie that is not afraid to take a contemplative moment aside to build real tension. It’s not just eye-candy, this one. Of course, neither is anything else of Tsukamoto’s I’ve seen, but sometimes a movie is so well-done it bears worth mentioning. The final scene is the catharsis of the story, when the two characters finally experience all the chaos, finally witnessing all the death, seeing its effect on others, are free from their emotional blockage. Beyond all the horror of death, beyond all the disturbing scenes of violence, beyond the sociopathic behavior, ‘Bullet Ballet’ shines with its search for humanity at the darkest places, at the darkest moments, at the darkest times.