directed by Tsukamoto Shinya
Japan 1998


Tsukamoto Shinya is one of Japan’s most exciting directors. A true independent director, who not only produces his own films, but also spends time promoting them by hanging posters up. Throughout the seventies he made a series of experimental films, then took a break to graduate from art school and became a director of television commercials. He returned to film in 1986 and his films from then on were very influenced by him having been a saleryman, living a life on autopilot and becoming detached from life. In an interview Tsukamoto said, that our lives had become sterile and that we no longer had any true sense of neither our bodies nor our emotions. Thus a main theme in his films deals with reconnecting with ones body and emotions.

Goda is an executive and makes commercials. One day he comes home to discover, that his girlfriend has committed suicide, using a Smith and Wesson Chief’s Special. In order to come to terms with her death, Goda becomes obsessed with the gun and owning one. In search for one, he comes across Goto, the leader of a street gang who beats him up and rubs him, and Chisato, a girl who hangs out with the gang. His obsession with the gun thus becomes intertwined with Chisato, as she later comes to him and asks him for protection.

The film is inspired by real events, and one can to some degree approach is as self-reflectory, as Tsukamoto, as Goda, made commercials and, as Goda, also was beaten and robbed by a street gang, and finally plays Goda himself.

It is not without reason that Tsukamoto confronts Goda with Goto. Goda is a saleryman, belonging to the class of Japanese, who believes in that their work has value and benefits Japan. Contra to this, Goto is a chinpira, a street punk, who believes that there is nothing to work for, as Japan’s economy, despite of the work of the salerymen, collapsed, and who seeks confirmation thru confrontation. In between them, Chisato represents the means to salvation.

Another element significant for Tsukamoto is the colour of the film, here black and white. As in “Tetsuo”, Tsukamoto chose black and white because it resembled the reflection of metal, here the metal surface of the handgun. In “Tetsuo 2”, he used a bluish scheme, to reflect the colour of the office towers, and in “Tokyo Fist”, composed in red and orange, to reflect the bruises and blood on a boxers face.

Ever since “Tokyo Fist”, Tsukamoto has moved over into a more existential human drama, and as such, one can view “Bullet Ballet” as the key film of Tsukamoto, connecting his former cyberpunk themes, as in “Tetsuo”, with his present human themes. A incredible intense film. A must-see for fans of Japanese cinema.

Henrik Sylow


Theatrical Release: September 12, 1998 (Toronto Film Festival)

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DVD Review: ArtsMagic - Region 1 - NTSC

Big thanks to Henrik Sylow for the Review!

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Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 1:26:37

1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.73 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio 5.1 Dolby Digital Japanese
Subtitles English (fixed)
Features Release Information:
Studio: ArtsMagic

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• Audio Commentary by Tom Mes
• Interview with Shinya Tsukamoto (34:30)
• Teaser (0:55)
• Trailer (1:35)
• Promotional Material
• Biographies
• Filmographies

DVD Release Date: February 22, 2005
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Chapters 13





Comments Shot on 16mm, the image is very dark and grainy. There are minor artefacts in form of minute halos and mosquito noise, but despite these and the films appearance, it’s a great transfer. It differs from its OAR of 1.85:1 by being presented in 1.78:1, whether being overscanned or opened up.

The sound is 5.1 Dolby Digital, but sounds to me more like 2.0 Dolby Digital centre based with duplicated surround sound. Despite this, it is a quiet dynamic sound, which really makes the score sound great.

Additional material is a, as usual, slow but highly informative audio commentary by Tom Mes, who goes into great detail discussing Tsukamoto, his background, his themes, and just about every aspect of the film. Following this is a 35-minute interview with Tsukamoto, where he talks about his way of making film.

 - Henrik Sylow



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