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|GEMINI (Sôseiji) (director/writer: Shinya Tsukamoto; screenwriter: from the novel by Rampo Edogawa; cinematographer: Shinya Tsukamoto; editor: Shinya Tsukamoto; music: Chu Ishikawa; cast: Masahiro Motoki (Dr Yukio Daitokuji/Sutekichi), Ryo (Rin), Yasutaka Tsutsui (Yukio's father), Shiho Fujimura (Yukio's mother); Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Futoshi Nishimura; Image Entertainment; 1999-Japan-in Japanese with English subtitles)|
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Cult filmmaker Shinya Tsukamoto ("Tokyo Fist"/"Bullet Ballet "/"Tetsuo: The Iron Man") directs the disturbing ghoulish film Gemini, that translates to mean twins and plays out as a period costume drama. It's loosely based on the Edogawa Rampo story from the 1920s "The Twins," that's set in the late Meiji era (1868-1912).
Dr Yukio Daitokuji (Masahiro Motoki) has returned from the war front and has won many medals for his service. The suave doctor has taken over the successful practice from his wealthy father, and is cheered by his fellow aristocrats. They live in a palatial home, in the suburbs of Tokyo, that is kept like a fortress, as the family despises the slum dwellers from a nearby ghetto. Yukio's pretty wife Rin (Ryo) has no memory of her past, and is not fully trusted by his snobby parents. Yukio discovered her naked by the bank of a river during a fire. The wealthy family is concerned about the plague hitting the ghetto and the arrogant Yukio only treats patients from his same class. Things take a strange turn when a mysterious doppelganger, dressed as a cart-wheeling wolfman, suddenly appears out of nowhere and kills both of his parents at different time periods. He then pushes Yukio down the family garden well and leaves him trapped there, keeping him barely alive with scraps of food. The double takes his place and takes up his married position with Rin. The double shocks Yukio by later telling him that he is Sutekichi, his long-lost twin brother. He tells of being cast aside at birth due to a prominent snake-like scar on his leg and was raised by the neighboring slum dwellers. He then tells him that Rin's a beggar woman from the slums, and represents the kind of woman Yukio most detests. Also that she was faking her memory loss and was once his lover. The double is also pissed he was cheated out of his birthrights (which sounds like a biblical story in the OT).
The animalistic sibling rivalry is used to show the contradiction within the human self. Tsukamoto's aim is to explore such things as love, the depths of human depravity, the class struggle, the "sins of our fathers" and sibling conflicts. It's a visually pleasing stylistic presentation (with many odd shots reminding one of a Peter Greenaway film) and a chilling psychological tale, that evokes the social conditions that Rampo was noted for writing about. For Tsukamoto, the kind of true love that signals hope for humanity comes from descending into hell and surviving.
REVIEWED ON 11/23/2007 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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