Friday, 9 January 2015

Turtle Vision (1991) Hiseyasu Sato

Most times that I've had problems with Sato films its been from a feeling of outside compromise. Tiny budget and too much sex preventing Brain Sex from achieving its apocalyptic potential, or something like a third of Love Minus Zero Equals Infinity removed to make an acceptable genre length. Turtle Vision feels a little held back by budget, but mostly by Sato's own decisions. The beginning sets the tone, someone is spying by camera on a canoodling couple but the overly fuzzy footage is a real drag, virtually impossible to make out. And it goes on. The set up is fine, a young man who makes voyeur sex tapes for sale gets involved with a girl who slashes her lovers eyes out, and she has an incestuous relationship with her sister. There's plenty of isolation, the deadening power of the camera, the sinister potential of gaze, perversion and the psychic transference of woe. It's all good stuff. But there's far too much use of blurry night vision footage, taking the sting out of much of the action. Even taking the most positive interpretation, that the idea is stylised unreality, the blue hue an emotional state, cold and distant, it still doesn't work. The style, the isolation, the depth to scenes is already there in the camera angles, the night vision shooting just makes things harder to see. It just doesn't work.It's very frustrating, as is the cutting away from or otherwise obscuring of nearly all the eye violence. Other films have demonstrated that Sato isn't shy when it comes to violence, so its hard to figure out why he doesn't go for more here.

At least there's a tangible beginning, middle and end here, the storytelling is compressed as one expects but it flows well, with characters and themes that work on their own terms without necessarily needing to be fitted into the general Sato framework.Sato regular Koichi Imaizumi is effective as the male lead, I suspect weird, somewhat pathetic loner with a steely, self determining core may be his default rather than really acting but it works just fine. The others do well too, conveying the right chilly yet irresistible connection. The one nasty sequence short normally is suitably nasty, and though short is revisited to good effect, and the climax does offer a memorable image. That's about the long, the short and the tall of it. Some Sato fans or general Asian cinema enthusiasts like this rather more than me so you should probably check it out, but I won't recommend it. Meh...