Bullet Ballet (1998, Shinya Tsukamoto)

Businessman Goda (the director himself, also listed as writer, editor and cinematographer) becomes gun-obsessed after his wife shoots herself. They are illegal to buy, so he trolls the underground, then constructs his own gun out of custom-machined parts, and finally a girl offers a gun if he’ll marry her for immigration reasons. It’s a no-brainer for him, with his life in an obsessive downward spiral by then, and she’s never seen again in the movie.

During his gun quest he ran into Chisato (Kirina Mano of Greenaway’s 8 1/2 Women) and her boyfriend Goto, a couple of punks in a street gang. I suppose we only get the fragments of the plot that Goda understands himself, so when a hitman starts killing off the gang and our guy offers his protection, we never find out who or why this is happening, and it leads to an odd conclusion, the hitman beating the hell out of Goto but leaving our three heroes alive.

It’s Tsukamoto’s trademark gritty handheld harsh black-and-white look, but his movies never seem as indifferently shot as most others which use handheld cameras and fast cutting to convey energy. He’s actually good, not just covering up a lack of visual ideas with speed. He’s great with physical intensity, but maybe less good with plotting. This one wants to be feature length (Haze was better-paced at 50 minutes) but doesn’t offer any new ideas past the halfway point.