Review for Gemini
After a couple of uncertain years, Third Window Films’ tie-up with Arrow Films has brought some consistency back to their release schedules. We’ve had at least eight releases from them in 2020 compared to just three in 2019. That’s with the current Covid situation, although you might think that the demand for quality cinema to appreciate at home might be higher than ever. Next up on the list is Gemini, as Third Window Films once more takes a dip into the back catalogue of Shinya Tsukamoto, and his 1999 film based on a short story from Edogawa Rampo.
Yukio Daitokuji is a respected doctor, decorated for his service in the war, now living with his parents, and his wife Rin, working in the family practice. But his wife is an amnesiac, and his parents haven’t taken to her as he might have hoped. The strained family home is about to be shattered though, when his parents are killed, one after the other, and the one responsible wears Yukio’s face.
Gemini gets a 1.85:1 widescreen 1080p transfer with DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo Japanese and optional English subtitles. It’s a solid transfer of a really impressive looking film. The image is clear and sharp, detail levels are excellent, and natural grain is a testament to the film source. There is the odd fleck on the print, but the image is stable and clean, and really brings the expressive cinematography and atmospheric direction across. About the only nit to pick might be some crush in the deepest blacks. The audio is clear and free of glitches. This looks like a film where the dialogue was all ADR, so it remains clear throughout, and the film’s haunting music comes across well. The subtitles are timed accurately and are free of typos.
The disc boots to an animated menu, and there are plenty of extras on this disc, although of an age and quality that they all come with a disclaimer about that.
That’s all except the commentary from Tom Mes, which is new for this release, and of course plays against the background of that excellent transfer.
The trailer lasts 1:45.
The Making of Gemini lasts 17:51.
There is more Behind The Scenes material which runs to 20:12.
The Make-Up Demonstration lasts 6:06.
The 56th Venice Film Festival Premiere lasts 17:00 and offers a stage event with interviews with cast and crew.
Gemini is a beautifully shot film, perhaps almost as striking visually as Tsukamoto’s Snake of June. It’s also a very effective psychological horror, which would have been perfect for Halloween, were it not being released on November 2nd. It is after all based on The Twins by Edogawa Rampo, the Japanese author who took his pen-name in homage to Edgar Allen Poe. Having recently seen a trilogy of Poe adaptations in the Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Raven, and The Black Cat, you can certainly see that influence in this particular story. Still, Tsukamoto’s touch is visible from the first scene of maggots devouring a carcass. You know this isn’t a film to get comfortable with.
But in the end, this is exactly the problem I had with Gemini. I found it too comfortable to watch. It is to date the most conventional Tsukamoto film I have seen, one that almost conforms to cinematic conventions and audience expectations. Perhaps it’s because the horror trope of evil twins has been well and truly explored at this point, and you can find lists over a hundred long at IMDB if you go looking, of course including this film.
What makes Gemini really stand out though is the very theatrical approach to the performances and the staging. It gives the film a surreal and dreamlike air that accentuates the horror aspects of it. It’s also structured like a mystery to be resolved. You have Yukio a very controlled and somewhat cold doctor, Rin, his enigmatic wife, and this horrific image of the man responsible for killing Yukio’s parents. He’s a warped reflection of Yukio, distorted and malformed, so much that he appears as a Jekyll to Yukio’s Dr Hyde. All of this asks questions of the characters, and the film proceeds to peel off layers that answer those questions, who is Rin really, why is Yukio so reserved, and is that distorted reflection real, or just in Yukio’s mind? The act of answering these questions reveals further mysteries, and so the film proceeds.
In this way the story really hinges on the psychology of the characters, and Tsukamoto leaves it to the audience to interpret what he shows us, and ultimately how the film concludes. It’s an interesting and provocative approach to storytelling that demands much from the audience, and makes the film work much better than a conventional narrative. It’s just that even with all that, and compared to all the other, stunning Tsukamoto works that Third Window Films have brought to the UK over the years, Gemini still feels rather tame and conventional. I think I’ve been spoiled at this point. A rather conservative Shinya Tsukamoto film gets the usual excellent treatment from Third Window Films.