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Movie review: Gemini April 19, 2008

Posted by ashiah in old.
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People always like to carry on about how different Gemini is to other Shinya Tsukamoto films. True, there are no frantic camera angles, disturbing social commentary on the human body or much violence, but if everyone used those guidelines when applying to Tsukamoto films he would be pigeonholed. And that’s never a good thing. We should be proud of our directors who step outside their comfort zone (if it’s done well, anyway), and luckily Tsukamoto succeeds.

Released in 1999, Gemini is a period horror film set in the Meiji Period (for all you Japanese historians out there). Yukio (Masahiro Motoki) is a successful and famous doctor who has a reputation for being intelligent and well-mannered. He lives a pampered, yet bland life with his upper class family, who are all quiet, reserved and quite emotionless. The one spark of spice in his life is his wife Rin, a woman who lost her memory after a fire. Slowly, Yukio starts to feel he’s being watched. Other strange occurrences happen when Yukio’s parents die mysteriously. One day, while walking outside, Yukio is attacked and thrown into a well (don’t you hate it when that happens?). The plot thickens when it turns out the culprit is the twin brother he never knew he had.


Rin gets the word that mud is no longer fashionable.

There’s plenty of social commentary on class systems here. Yukio’s family is seen as being very boring, quiet and reserved. No one cracks a smile, no one laughs – everything is about quiet subtleties as a sign of deep respect. This greatly contrasts with “the slums,” the lower class village nearby. Yukio thinks all slum people are inheritantly evil and crawling with diseases. In one scene, Yukio has to choose between giving medical care to a mother and baby from the slums, or the mayor. His decision is tough, but his actions are not much of a surprise. Although the slum people are more likely to succumb to crimes due to poverty, they are portrayed as being emotionally passionate people. Everyone wears bright colors and express their feelings conspicuously. Tsukamoto does a good job of showing these scenes as fast paced, loud and candy-fied for the eyes. There’s even an interesting cameo by Tadanobu Asano who is only in the film for a minute and somehow still steals the show. Motoki’s performance is equally amazing and manages to play two roles so realistically I thought the characters were played by real twins.

Gemini doesn’t get as much attention as A Snake of June or Vital, but it’s a charming and impressive little film with stunning cinematography and mystical storyline. It’s nice to see it finally get a proper region 1 DVD release.

DVD features:

There’s some interesting behind the scenes footage. Although there’s not much talking and is mostly focused on showing the technicalities of the film, there’s a funny part where well-known actor Renji Ishibashi (who plays a beggar in the film) asks why he never gets to play normal roles.

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