A spiritual sequel to Tokyo Fist, a dance of elegance and blood that deserves the title of Tsukamoto’s best cult film yet…
Goda (director Shinya Tsukamoto plays the lead role again) is a successful director of commercials, with turmoil quickly approaching when his girlfriend comes to an explosive suicidal end. Goda’s infatuation with getting hold of the same style Smith & Wesson that his girlfriend died, with leads to him getting embroiled in Tokyo’s gang underworld. Violence and fast thrills are the game whilst morbid Chisato helps Goda experience new and increasingly more criminal endeavors, getting beaten by the gang his companion is part of mirrors the same scuffle Tsukamoto takes in Tokyo Fist.
Tsukamoto’s reinterpretation of Taxi Driver is a gritty black & white affair, shot on 35mm film stock that gives a vivid feel to the explosively hyper-realistic style that fans of the director are familiar with. His grounded interpretation of the Tokyo business world and the life it saps out of people in suits and offices, this is a stark contrast from previous sci-fi pursuits Tetsuo: The Iron Man and convenes with Tsukamoto’s recurring message in all his films, that to truly experience life is to throw off the industrial shackles of society.
Bullet Ballet paints a bleak world for all the characters involved, with the characters struggling to overcome their own issues with society or fellow members of the gang, through violent and vicious acts that leave the audience reeling. Stylistically this is his most stand-out film to date, with less anarchic themes than Tokyo Fist and a soundtrack more muted and ambient than Tetsuo, Bullet Ballet plays a more hopeful tune that gives the audience an air of optimism not frequently seen in Tsukamoto’s filmography.
Bullet Ballet is one of Tsukamoto’s most exciting releases, though one of his more realistic and grounded films to date. Whilst not living up to A Snake Of June or his more recent Kotoko, Tsukamoto’s earliest inspiration and honed cinematic techniques are at show the most in Bullet Ballet and I personally think is his most definitive work, expressing every aspect of the refined skills that define Tsukamoto as a director.
The Blu-ray release helps this film to shine through the most, with detail in shots not before seen in previous printings, with dark shadows and black backgrounds having a sense of depth in the scenes opposed to previous printings. The new interview material included on the re-release is an interesting watch as Tsukamoto talks more about the film, what he wanted to express to the audience and the influences he faced with the film.