Shin’ya Tsukamoto is one of those very few filmmakers with a truly distinctive style that sets him apart from everyone else. After starting the movement called “cyber-punk cinema” with the cult classic Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989), this Japanese director – who most of you might recognise as the guy who plays Ichi in Takashi Miike’s Ichi the Killer (2001) – went on making genre-bending movies where his signature style was adapted according to the subject.
Since I’m well-aware of the fact that Tsukamoto’s movies really aren’t for everyone, I decided to recommend Haze (2005) for two reasons: it’s a film that embodies every element of Tsukamoto’s cinema in a nutshell, but it’s only 49 minutes long, therefore it’s a really low commitment for people who are unsure about such a unique and unprecedented style of filmmaking.
Haze centres around a man (played by Tsukamoto himself) who wakes up in a cramped concrete maze of corridors for no apparent reason. He’s wounded and bleeding to death, so he needs to get out of there as soon as possible, all the while he wants to figure out where he is and why he’s been locked there.
Continue reading and check my final grade below…
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As I said, Haze represents everything Tsukamoto’s movies are known for: aggressive editing, intrusive close-ups, hectic camera-work, ultra-saturated colours, screechy sounds, punk music, loads of gore and an eerie feel given by the combination of the aforementioned elements.
Although a movie like this might seem not to require any kind of thoughtful cinematography, Haze actually delivers the intended sense of claustrophobia and impossibility to breathe due to the way the camera moves around, always focusing on the main character’s face and never allowing the viewer to experience a middle or a wide shot.
Tsukamoto is, also, one of the best directors working today when it comes to understanding the runtime: Haze is a very short film because every additional minute would be unnecessary. In fact, in this 49-minute-long horror nightmare every single scene serves a purpose so that there’s no room for a single dull second.
Besides, such a short runtime helps to keep the viewer on the edge throughout. This is also achieved by the mystery aspect of the movie (who’s this guy and why was he confined there?) and the huge amount of nightmarish gory visions, which give the film a nasty, dirty feel.
My very few complaints with the movie revolve around a couple of scenes where the sound-design feels a bit off (which might also depend on my DVD copy, though) and the voice over in the main character’s head: the inclusion of this voice over doesn’t seem to serve any narrative purpose, as we can tell from the situation, the camera-work and the acting that this guy is confused and desperate. There’s also one tiny practical effect that, upon second viewing, doesn’t look as realistic as the others.
In conclusion, Haze is a short but intense claustrophobic experience told in a cyber-punk style and filled with surreal/disturbing moments. It’s by no means a movie for everyone – in fact, I’m almost hesitant to recommend it – but if you like the director’s style or if you’re open to experimental cinema Haze might be what you’re looking for. Shin’ya Tsukamoto is currently my third favourite Japanese filmmaker (after Sion Sono and Takashi Miike), so I would also recommend getting a copy of the movies below:
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