Format: Cinema

Screening date: 5 July 2012

Venue: Rich Mix, London

Director: Shin’ya Tsukamoto

Writers: Cocco, Shin’ya Tsukamoto

Cast: Shin’ya Tsukamoto, Cocco

Japan 2011

91 mins

Kotoko starts with an intensity that doesn’t diminish throughout the film. The story could pan out as a recognisable tale of a woman whose anxieties are exacerbated by her role as a new mother. Kotoko is paranoid, exhausted, and losing her grip on reality. So far, so what? But Shin’ya Tsukamoto has a unique vision, as we know from his Tetsuo films. In actual fact, this familiar account, shot in vérité style, includes an extreme level of violence. This brutality takes place in the narrative world of the film: Kotoko experiences beatings but also administers them generously herself. It is also part of Tsukamoto’s treatment of her psychological state and her mental decline. One technique is to manipulate diegetic sounds to create a sense of overwhelming agitation. He makes cooking with a large wok sound like being run over by a truck. This is interwoven with sweet and contemplative shots, many lingering on Kotoko, played by Tsukamoto’s attractive writing collaborator and star of the film, Cocco. Images of beautiful women harming themselves don’t do it for me but, on the whole, this filmmaker’s capacity to portray transgressive violence on screen, which you can feel in your own body as you watch, is pretty phenomenal.

The East End Film Festival opens on 3 July and runs until 8 July 2012. Kotoko screens on 5 July at the Rich Mix. For more information please visit the East End Film Festival website.

Nicola Woodham