Today I watched Shin’ya Tsukamoto’s Tokyo Fist (1995)
Tsukamoto directs and stars as Tsuda, a mild mannered insurance salesman who lives with his wife Hizuru in Tokyo. His insurance work leads to him meeting a boxer named Kojima who then intrudes on Tsuda’s personal life and makes unwanted advances on his wife. When Tsuda confronts him Kojima beats him savagely which embarrases him and creates a rift between him and Hizuru. Hizuru finds herself attracted to Kojima’s animal magnetism and raw aggression, soon cutting off her relationship with Tsuda to be with Kojima. She takes up aggressive body modding but soon discovers Kojima to be startlingly cowardly as he fears her eccentricity. Meanwhile Tsuda has been trying to win her back and he begins to also take up boxing, training in the same gym as Kojima.
This film, with it’s labyrinthine human relationships disintegrating into surreal violence, is fairly typical of Tsukamoto’s style of delivery. His cinematography is radical and aggressive, filled as it is with rapid and disorienting movement, and his subject matter is equally as jumbled. What Tsukamoto offers with this film is a meditation on violence and masculinity within modern society, I say meditation but it can be as aggressive and vitriolic as it’s subject matter. This is one of Tsukamoto’s greatest strengths as a film maker, his ability to create works that fully embody their subject matter, as long as that subject matter is extreme, violent, and has something to do with negative elements of modern culture.
I don’t think anyone can shoot a modern city-scape as evocatively as Tsukamoto does, his image of Tokyo just comes off as so much more alive than most other urban visions. Though in this case I mean alive as in organic and conscious, not as in lively or wakeful, no his city is an alien thing beyond human control. I would really recommend checking this film out to see that vision unfold, I think more people could learn from Tsukamoto’s irreverent yet austere style and this is as good a starting place as ever. Maybe better than some because this film, unlike some of his others, has fairly understandable characters to go along with his visual chaos. 5/5