Bullet Ballet
(Region 1 Edition)

Starring: Shinya Tsukamoto, Kirina Mano and Tatsuya Nakamura
Artsmagic Ltd
RRP US $24.95
ATU 016
Certificate: Not Rated (US)
Available 22 February 2005

A business man's life is changed forever when his fiancée shoots herself. Distraught by her death, he is determined to get hold of an identical handgun by any means possible and track down the street gang he believes is ultimately responsible for her death.

Bullet Ballet is a strange film and one that is not easy to pigeonhole. Not that that in itself is a bad thing, it's just that by it's conclusion I started to wonder whether director Shinya Tsukamoto (who is also the lead actor), really knew himself what he was trying to convey to the audience.

The first half of the movie is concerned with our hero's (Goda) numerous attempts to find a suitable gun as well as confronting the gang that he believes is responsible for his girlfriend's death. But once he tracks this gang down the movie totally changes tact - in fact if you didn't know better you'd almost think it was two very different films stitched together.

It's only really when you understand the Japanese culture that the significance of the gun as a murder weapon becomes clear. The right to own a gun in Japan, unlike America, is not a given right and strict gun laws are in place. The only firearm that normal citizens can possess legally is a shotgun, but then there is a long and slow process to go through before a permit is issued for one. So Goda's long quest to obtain a firearm and the problems he faces is a lot more difficult than it would be in the USA (obviously).

Visually this movie is beautiful. Shot in atmospheric black and white, the locations chosen are hauntingly claustrophobic, even more so when juxtaposed between shots of city skylines. Actually, while I'm on the subject of skylines I was confused as to the use of several shots in this movie. One of which sees a tense moment broken by a quick shot of a skyline, and then it was back to the tense scene. It looked like it was designed for a TV channel so that they could cut away for the commercial break. I'm sure it wasn't there for that reason, but then I am at a total loss to explain why it was included at all.

The director also has a thing about running - everyone does it and it's usually followed by a shaky, handheld camera. After a while the juddery camera was starting to give me a headache.

Extras include an audio commentary, an interview with the director and trailers.

This is not, unfortunately one of Tsukamoto's better films. It is too confusing, too disjointed and the ending left me questioning whether I had missed something along the way.

Nick Smithson

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