Features Live Action Movies

A Snake Of June
No Hebi,

Director – Shinya Tsukamoto – 2002 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 77m


Unlike any terrorised female narrative you’ve ever seen, at once bizarre and hugely rewarding – currently streaming on BFI Player as part of the BFI Japan 2021 programme

This review originally appeared in What’s On In London, June 2003.

In an unnamed (but suspiciously Tokyo-like) Japanese city where it’s constantly raining, a mysterious phone caller blackmails repressed housewife Rinko (Asuka Kurosawa). If that sounds clichéd, set your prejudices aside because Shinya Tsukamoto’s unique, new film is unlike any terrorised female narrative you’ve ever seen. The motives of the caller (director Tsukamoto himself) are scarcely what you might expect.

From the moment Rinko opens a postal package labelled “Your Husband’s Secrets” to find photographs of herself masturbating (which she flicks into life like a series of animated stills) via her subsequent following orders involving short skirts and vibrators through to the extraordinary finale, the piece walks a difficult path between humiliating and liberating women.

With the year’s most arresting opening – a stripping model reduced to orgasmic ecstasy in serial, rapid-fire static images to the flashing of a stills camera – it’s likely to engross some viewers while offending others. But then one would expect no less from the controversial director of Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989). Tsukamoto builds on his exploration of man’s relationship to technology, pushing further into his fascination with the unintentional disruption by raw emotion and human spirit of an alien, robotically clean, technologically advanced environment’s bland surface.

If the result like Crash (David Cronenberg, 1996) foregrounds sex to explore science fictional themes, Snake’s journey into the feminine sexual psyche may well strike a chord with the audience currently flocking to see Secretary. Shot in searing trademark monochrome and boasting a surprisingly restrained, string-based score from regular Tsukamoto composer Chu Ishikawa, the film is at once bizarre and hugely rewarding.

Currently streaming on BFI Player as part of the BFI Japan 2021 programme.

Review originally published in What’s On In London for the film’s theatrical release, June 2003.

Trailer (Third Window Films):

UK Release


Blu-ray/DVD – Third Window Films


Cinema release (UGC Shaftesbury Avenue)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *