Shinya Tsukamoto

Active - 1989 - 2016  |   Born - Jan 1, 1960   |   Genres - Horror, Drama, Avant-garde / Experimental, Thriller

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Biography by Jason Buchanan

Constant comparisons to such distinctive celluloid experimentalists as David Cronenberg and David Lynch may give the uninitiated an idea of what to expect aesthetically and thematically from the works of renegade Japanese filmmaker/actor Shinya Tsukamoto, though as complimentary as they may be, the comparisons ultimately don't do justice to the remarkably original and frantic essence of his hauntingly jarring cinematic nightmares. From the cringe-inducing, hyper-kinetic body horror of Tetsuo: The Iron Man to the creeping deliberation of Gemini, Tsukamoto's intriguing body of work has isolated critics and audiences while building a strong fan base who share his technophobe paranoia and cyber-punk sensibility. Born in Shibuya, Tokyo, in 1960, Tsukamoto found inspiration early in his childhood from the television series Ultra-Q. Making his directorial debut via Super-8 film around the age of 14, the future director later found creative outlet in painting and theater. Briefly putting his filmmaking on the backburner to concentrate on writing, directing, and acting in the theater troupe he created at the Fine Arts division of Nihon University, Tsukamoto briefly took a job at a commercial film studio upon graduation, and soon after quit to again purse stage work with his troupe, Phantom Theater, in 1985. Resurrecting his filmmaking dreams the following year, Tsukamoto began work on The Phantom of Regular Size, a film that would ultimately be the precursor to his breakout hit, Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989). Though he would further flex his punk sensibilities with The Adventure of Denchu Kozo the following year, it was the all-out sensory assault of Tetsuo that would make Tsukamoto an international cult figure. Its use of nearly every cinematic trick in the book gave the tale of urban industrialization and its frightening effect on man a remarkably distinct energy and though it isolated audiences, it provided solid proof that the developing visionary possessed a strong aesthetic sensibility. His next film, Hiruku the Goblin, took a more conventional approach to horror that, while not altogether ineffective, still found the director attempting to find a balance between the chaos of Tetsuo and a subdued approach more palatable to the masses. Following shortly after with the more traditional but equally disturbing Tetsuo II (1992) proved slightly more successful in regards to finding this balance, and fans fearing a sell-out were relieved to find his uniquely frightening vision undiluted by success and larger budgets. Although his next film, Tokyo Fist, was remarkably free of the industrial paranoia of his previous works, the tale of a salary-man turned viciously determined pugilist retained his themes of pain and transformation, albeit internalizing it more in flesh and mind than with metal. And though Bullet Ballet failed to live up to the growing expectations of his hungry fan base, Tsukamoto gracefully hit his stride with perhaps his most effective film to date, the viscerally chilling and sometimes Kubrick-esque Gemini (1999). Inspired by the Edogawa Rampo story Soseiji (The Twins), Gemini constructed an almost unbearable dread in its tale of unbridled lust and brotherly conflict, while taking Tsukamoto's usual theme of transformation to a whole new level. In addition to directing, Tsukamoto also appears as an actor in both his own films and those of his contemporaries, working and forming bonds with such filmmakers as Naoto Takenaka (119 [1994]) and the similar-minded Takashi Miike (Dead or Alive 2 [2000] and Ichi the Killer [2001]).

Movie Highlights

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