In 1989, director Shinya Tsukamoto unleashed his career-defining cyberpunk gorefest Tetsuo: The Iron Man on the world and changed the landscape of Japanese horror. The disturbing cult classic established the director internationally following success at film festivals, and created his worldwide cult following that still celebrates his work to this day. Now, one of his lesser known works makes its UK Blu-ray debut thanks to Third Window Films.
Adapted from the Edogawa Rampo short story The Twins, Tsukamoto’s Meiji-era horror Gemini represented the director’s first foray into period films, setting the action in 1910 Tokyo. The film follows a doctor (Masahiro Motoki) and his wife (Yumiko Miyada, known more commonly as Ryô). But when the doctor’s parents die suddenly at the hands of a stranger with his face, a dark and twisted mystery begins to unravel.
While this period setting does offer a quieter and more restrained world than the grimy industrial settings the director is known for, the resulting film is still undeniably Tsukamoto – even if it’s not quite as harrowing as his earlier works. The celebrated filmmaker’s heightened visual approach is certainly evident in the film’s lavish and often carnivalesque visuals, with unique costume and sets that remind us this is not your grandmother’s period drama – Jane Austen this most certainly ain’t.
Gemini is a film of two parts. With the first half of the film playing out akin to an old ghost story filled with atmosphere and looming dread, the film does switch to something of a psychological thriller when the story’s mysteries come to light. Unfortunately, this back-end of the film does fail to live up to the nightmarish feel of the first chunk. The twists are far from unpredictable, and as the narrative speeds up toward the intense climax it does certainly lose its power to shock and disturb – which is something that you don’t want from Tsukamoto.
Despite some bold and unique touches that are undeniably those of the celebrated cult filmmaker, Gemini is never-the-less a lesser entry in his rich filmography that wastes his talents on a predictable and oft-bland story.
Third Window Films’ Blu-ray, however, should delight fans – a strong transfer brings the film’s rich colour palette to life, while the special features include an engrossing audio commentary and an interesting Making of Gemini featurette from acclaimed director Takashi Miike.