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A man sees his life changed for ever when his fiancee shoots herself. Baffled, he wants by all means to obtain such a weapon of destruction and he finds himself caught in a violent group of young vicious punks. They first beat him severely and then he seeks revenge with his fist, then with a gun. Written by
Ever since I watched Bullet Ballet for the very first time it's been by far my favorite of all Tsukamoto films. Being a director with a cult following, Tsukamoto is one of the better known Japanese Directors of the last twenty years with a unique visual style of movement and imagery. After watching this film, Bullet Ballet could arguably be Tsukamoto's best film as some of his succeeding works have faltered to produce better quality of work ever since.
As the main character in Bullet Ballet, Tsukamoto himself plays a man named Goda who one night after his usual daily drinking routine goes home to find that his girlfriend of ten years has committed suicide by gun. Torn by his girlfriend's own demise, Goda goes out looking to buy a gun in the streets and along the way runs into a gang of punks who beat him up for a previous spat with the female gang member Chisako (played by the actress Kirina Mano), which leads Goda to hold a personal and unforgivable grudge towards Chisako that he will not let go without violence of his own.
The story and the cinematography of this film holds up this movie and while the acting may be questionable in some minor scenes it doesn't affect the film in any way. Like most of Tsukamoto's other films, Bullet Ballet is presented with plenty Tsukamoto's usual signature hand-held kinetic camera style in most of his films. In my opinion there's room to say that the story of this film could have benefited from some improvements here and there for the characters, though based on Japanese culture and behavior should they had made certain changes would have made the film a bit unusual for Japanese audiences to understand opposed to Western style filmmaking.
Compared to other Tsukamoto's films that I have enjoyed, this is definitely his best looking film to date. Tetsuo "The Iron Man"(1989) which blew me away still had a very dark look and even at times looked underexposed in some scenes. Still, I was amazed with what Tsukamoto was able to accomplish on Tetsuo with very little. A Snake of June is another one of his films that nicely paints a picture while being a very daring film to awe the viewer. In many ways A Snake of June would have given Bullet Ballet a run for its money to be Tsukamoto's best looking film had Tsukamoto have filmed A Snake of June in widescreen format instead of 4:3 full screen which I did not care for and annoyed the hell out of me.
Personally, I can't say I care for any of Tsukamoto's films shot in color except for maybe Vital which was beautifully shot. In spite of it, I still wonder whether I care for the story in Vital by itself, which I am still a bit conflicted about. Style over substance or not, Tsukamoto's visual style in itself is very unique, which can only be seen in films like these.
Whether it's old fashion or not, I still hope for Tsukamoto to one day go back to shooting films in black and white. I feel that in black in white movies he's able to present a much better looking product compared to the ones he made in color. As the current Japanese movie trend is shooting movies in Digital HD that look like video (which in my opinion ruins the visual aesthetics of a traditional film even though you save in budget by in shooting video) I hope Tsukamoto doesn't go on to follow just to save money and sacrifice production quality on his films. That would be a shame to say the least.
There are many versions of Bullet Ballet out there. The version I saw was the standard 87 minute version. There are longer versions in the mid 90 minute marks out there even one that goes on almost close to two hours, but are those rare to come by.
All in all, give Bullet Ballet a go and some of Tsukamoto's other works if you wish. You might enjoy some of them if you're into bizarre, weird and unusual stories. 8 out of 10.
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