Goings On

Japan Cuts 2019

Shinya Tsukamoto’s Bullet Ballet (1998)

Japan Cuts, which the Japan Society in New York bills as the “largest festival of contemporary Japanese cinema in North America,” will premiere twenty-six features and sixteen shorts from tomorrow through July 28. While the emphasis is indeed on the contemporary and an impressive roster of young filmmakers will be introducing their latest works, the guest of honor will be Shinya Tsukamoto, who established an international cult following thirty years ago with Tetsuo: The Iron Man.

It makes perfect sense that an audiovisual essay accompanying a season of films from the 1990s in London would begin with a discussion of Tetsuo. “I felt like maybe this is one of the first movies that is genuinely about the Internet,” says Deborah Pearson, reading from a letter she supposedly sent to Daniel Cockburn in 1989. Shot on black-and-white 16 mm and depicting the transformation of a salaryman into a grotesque mesh of flesh and metal, Tetsuo was embraced by the midnight movie crowd as an instant classic of cyberpunk horror. Tsukamoto made two sequels, Body Hammer (1992) and The Bullet Man (2009), and along the way, he picked up awards for his erotic drama A Snake of June (2002) before taking Kotoko (2011) and Fires on the Plain (2014), a remake of Kon Ichikawa’s 1959 original, to the Venice Film Festival. As an actor, Tsukamoto has appeared in films by Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer) and Martin Scorsese (Silence).

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