Mondo Macabro: Gemini (1999) - Reviewed

Shinya Tsukamoto's Gemini (1999) is a twisted romance tale tinged with mystery and injected with moments of pure horror. In a departure from his earlier work, this film is a period piece that takes place in Meiji Era and it is free of his penchant for cyberpunk and industrial/mechanical embellishments. It's based on a 1924 Edogawa Ranpo short story called Sōseiji (The Twins) and the entire film embraces the idea of the duality of human nature--our base instincts are constantly at war with our desire to be civilized.

Dr. Daitokuji Yukio (Masahiro Motoki) is a successful doctor who has taken over his father's practice. He lives in a beautiful family estate and is blissfully in love with his enigmatic wife Rin (Ryō). Unfortunately, Rin suffers from amnesia and cannot recall much of her past. This ideal life is interrupted by the murder of both of Yukio's parents by a menacing stranger (who happens to look exactly like him) and the narrative spirals into madness from there as Yukio tries to find out who this stranger is and why he holds so much animosity for him.

The entire concept of the astrological sign of Gemini is the interplay between the higher and lower self, represented by the symbology of twins. In this story it is reinforced both by the structure of the film itself and by the double nature of every single character. The narrative takes place in the "present" which is 1910 Japan and also an indeterminate past that involves one of the main characters. The present is visually presented with extremely structured and elegant scene composition, almost stage-like in its aesthetic. The past, which takes place in a slum, is chaotic, colorful, and highly stylized (and will be quite familiar to anyone who has seen a lot of Tsukamoto's work).

Each main character also plays a dual role in the film with Motoki especially putting in a fantastic performance as a demure doctor and a crazed villian. Even the musical score plays a part with it having a decidedly industrial sound that is anachronistic to the vintage tone of the film. Gemini is an absolutely gorgeous looking film with the highlight being the warm orange-red color palette that permeates much of the first act and select scenes in the latter half. Tsukamoto's dynamic camerawork is fully on display here as well, and it is an interesting contrast between the delicate scenes that set up the film. If there is one negative, it is that the pacing feels a tad slow in the second act, but once it picks up again it doesn't let up until the wild ending.

Mondo Macabro's transfer is lovely with excellent color saturation and just a touch of film grain. 


HD transfer from film negative
“Making of Gemini” featurette directed by Takashi Miike (15 minutes)
Venice Film Festival premier featurette (17 minutes)
Make-up demonstration featurette (6 minutes)
Behind the Scenes (seven episodes, 20 minutes)
Original Trailer


1000 numbered copies. Reversible cover with new art by Naomi Butterfield unique to this release on the A side and original ad art on the B side. 16 page booklet featuring brand new writing on the film by Tom Mes, author of Iron Man: The Cinema of Shinya Tsukamoto

--Michelle Kisner