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A Snake of June (2002)
"Rokugatsu no hebi" (original title)

R  |   |  Drama, Mystery, Thriller  |  13 June 2003 (UK)
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 2,911 users  
Reviews: 26 user | 60 critic

A man and woman fall into an erotic nightmare when they are stalked by a disturbed man.


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Director: Suzuki Matsuo
Stars: Yuki Uchida, Kankurô Kudô, Yû Aoi


Credited cast:
Asuka Kurosawa ...
Rinko Tatsumi
Yûji Kôtari ...
Shigehiko (as Yuji Koutari)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Yukino Asai
Hira Dezu
Kôichi Fujita
Takehiro Fukuhara
Tomoya Fukumoto
Mansaku Fuwa
Teruko Hanahara
Kiyoto Harada
Daisuke Hatori
Noboru Inoue
Tarô Iwate
Shinji Kai


Rinku is a suicide-prevention counselor, living with her husband Shigehiko. He's older than she, scrubbing things constantly, sexually indifferent. They sleep apart. During Tokyo's rainy season, Iguchi, a photographer Rinku has counseled by phone, sends her pictures he has taken through her skylight: she's wearing a short skirt, masturbating. He offers her the negatives if she'll follow his instructions. She's humiliated and agrees. He tells her he's only giving her license to express her inner desires. He sends her into the night to walk on the wild side. Then, she asks a favor of him, and soon her husband receives phone calls and photographs. Where will this triangle lead? Written by <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Issho ni, jigoku ni ikimashô

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong sexuality, nudity and some violence | See all certifications »

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Release Date:

13 June 2003 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

A Snake of June  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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User Reviews

Slightly surreal erotic thriller
3 May 2005 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

Rinko Tatsumi (Asuka Kurosawa) works as a telephone counselor at a Tokyo-area suicide hotline. We see her as pleasant but maybe somewhat unsure of herself while doing her job, and we see her at home, where she is oddly distanced from her husband, Shigehiko (Yuji Kohtari). She receives an odd package in the mail in which she discovers voyeuristic, erotic photographs of herself. Another package contains a cell phone. The photographer calls her, and she finds herself embroiled in a relationship with a stalker who threatens to kill her if she alerts anyone.

In a nutshell, this is a Brian De Palma-styled "erotic thriller", with typical Asian horror dream logic sensibilities and spurts of Terry Gilliam-inspired surrealism. As a Japanese genre film, it has a common characteristic that works well in some films but not so well in others: it begins very taut and suspenseful, but makes some odd, oblique, ambiguous turns halfway through, then ends almost by an abandonment. Here the progression is a bit iffy, and is responsible for most of the point subtractions in my rating.

Stylistically, Snake of June is more than impressive. Director Shinya Tsukamoto, the helmer behind such notorious Japanese genre films as Tetsuo (1988) and Bullet Ballet (1998), takes a cue from recent Hollywood genre films and trumps the monochromatic-leaning cinematography by just shooting in black and white and tinting the film blue during processing. June is Japan's rainy season (the title refers partially to the month), and Tsukamoto sets the film amidst almost constant, frequently torrential rain. The combined effect is very ethereal; it's melancholy but sensual at the same time, and establishes the perfect mood for the story.

Tsukamoto made a commendable move in casting three principals who are anything but conventional in terms of age and looks. Kurosawa is older than the typical "sex bomb", and even looks a bit older than she really was while shooting. Tsukamoto has her "frumped up" a bit, making her a bit dowdy. Kohtari looks almost old enough to be her father (aided by his balding crown), and Tsukamoto himself plays the middle-aged stalker (again looking even older than his actual age). The casting choices were intelligent, as it sets the film in a more believable realm, with more "everyday" people.

Of course, Kurosawa's Rinko is still quite sexy, and becomes more so as the film progresses, partially because of her behavior and partially because of a subtle physical transformation she undergoes. Tsukamoto's stalker, Iguchi (one of the possible "snakes" of the title), is quite twisted in many of the physical acts he demands of Rinko (and much more depraved in the later manipulations of Shigehiko, which approach torture), but they amount to her blossoming in her sexuality, despite the initial relationship between Rinko and Iguchi which is almost forcefully coercive.

The basic idea of the film is fairly straightforward, although Tsukamoto throws in more surreal tangents probably intended to throw viewers off somewhat (some scenes, such as the bizarre one involving a "metal penis" (another snake allusion) with which Iguchi punishes Shigehiko, are purposefully ambiguous--Tsukamoto says on the DVD extras that even he is not sure what it means). The gist is that Iguchi, who was saved from killing himself by Rinko, has realized that life must be lived to its fullest in each moment--emotionally and physically/experientially. He thanks Rinko for producing a kind of awakening to this idea, and wants to return the favor, especially since he's noticed her emotionally vacuous marriage and her unfulfilled carnal desires. Each character develops as the film progresses, coming to a further realization of the central idea, even embracing the experience of pain and impending doom (which is probably why Rinko is shown not getting the medical attention she needs).

What makes the film so controversial, aside from its somewhat twisted sex scenes (which are primarily masturbatory), is that the positive character developments are through Sadean, non-consensual, felonious actions including or bordering on rape, murder, blackmail, false imprisonment, and so on. This isn't a film for the weak of heart, or for anyone who dislikes gray morality.

Although necessary for character development, the about-face that occurs in the middle of the film when Iguchi begins to focus on Shigehiko instead of Rinko also marks a point where all of the lovely thriller tension that Tsukamoto built up in the first half is abandoned. Rinko has taken Iguchi's suggested direction willingly--we see her become increasingly more daring as she enjoys her newfound free spirit, Shigehiko quickly seems to be a willing submissive, and Iguchi begins to seem a bit more pathetic than menacing. After what has come before, the final scene is a bit of an anti-climax, at least on a "visceral" level. It's not that the second half isn't entertaining, but the tone is very different--to an extent that it almost feels like a different film at times.

Still, A Snake of June is successful overall. As with many Asian genre films, it requires that you watch not expecting a neatly wrapped up, linear plot that could function as a logical argument. Viewed in the right frame of mind, you should find much to enjoy.

26 of 31 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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