Quentin Tarantino is always outspoken about his love for Asian cinema, often championing Asian filmmakers like Wong Kar-wai and Bong Joon-ho for their brilliant experiments with the cinematic medium. Tarantino is especially fond of Japanese cinema and has openly acknowledged that he has borrowed many of his stylisations from the whimsically violent Japanese action flicks.
One Japanese filmmaker that Tarantino really admires, however, is Shinya Tsukamoto, the pioneering figure whose seminal influence shaped the cyberpunk movement in Japanese cinema. Known for his masterpiece Tetsuo, Tsukamoto’s films have influenced multiple generations of western directors ranging from New Hollywood auteurs like Martin Scorsese to modern icons like David Fincher as well as Tarantino.
“In Tetsuo, I really wanted to show Tokyo as an urban jungle, and if you’re living in a concrete jungle, you forget about human instincts, that we are animals,” Tsukamoto explained in an interview. “By living in the city, your body’s existence is dying down. Self-harming, hitting something, bashing yourself, or boxing – knocking out other people, as in Tokyo Fist – it allows us to know we exist in this world. I used violence as an ironic depiction of how to live in the concrete jungle, and how to make a human connection.”
According to Tsukamoto, Tarantino was so enamoured by his films that he approached the Japanese legend with a special request. Tarantino wanted to produce the third instalment of the Tetsuo series, but the project never came to fruition because the script took too long for Tsukamoto to finish, and Tarantino moved on to other projects.
Tsukamoto confirmed: “After Tetsuo II, Quentin Tarantino approached me because he want produce Tetsuo III, I thought yeah, I can do this. But I didn’t have a plot, or a story. I started thinking about it, I started the script, but it took a very long time. Too long – so long that it died down and it didn’t happen. My process was too slow. As a fan, I think he’s amazing. He’s very talented, and he shows that talent in every film he makes.”
There is a mutual admiration between Tarantino and Tsukamoto, with the latter claiming he’s a huge fan of Tarantino’s cult classics like Reservoir Dogs. Even though Tsukamoto later opposed the use of cinematic violence in the name of stylisation, he did admit that Tarantino managed to create a visual grammar of violence in Reservoir Dogs, which formed its own aesthetic framework.
The Japanese filmmaker said: “I don’t know if I should say this after talking about being against violence at the moment, but the Tarantino scene that stands-out most for me is in Reservoir Dogs. It’s when they’ve caught the policeman, and he gets his ear cut off – the scene takes a long time, but then with one pop of the gun, it’s over. He dies, just like that. It’s over so quickly. That really stuck in my head. That, and the scene where the gangsters talk about Madonna, those are my favourite scenes from Tarantino.”