Short Movie Time: Kyonetsu (2017) [JFFH 2020]

Introduction

For our next Short Movie Time, we can finally introduce the work of CM and movie director Yuji Mitsuhashi. His latest short-film, called Kyo-netsu (2017), since its debut in 2017, has made the rounds at various international film festivals.

Review

The central tension Kyonetsu explores concerns the tension between the triad sexuality, desire, and death. Yuji Mitsuhashi explore this tension in a couple that does not speak, a couple that does not converse. While the couple seemingly functions as a traditional Japanese couple, the lack of speech is central. They may follow the pre-existing ideal of the traditional Japanese couple, both avoid each other as subject.

Kyo-netsu (2017) by Yuji Mitsuhashi

The disturbing element, an element disturbing the equilibrium of the man (Ukyo Nagura), concerns the sexual desire of his wife. She, in fact, uses him – or better put his penis – to satisfy her own sexual desire. The initial passivity of the man underlines that he is not present as a desiring being in the act. He is, as a matter of fact, just a man who follows the routine of life – which includes daily sex with his wife. 

But is he without desire? The moment that he throws his wife on the ground to strangle and make love to her, he expresses a sexual desire. But is his desire a pure sexual desire? Does he desire his wife (Kyoko Takahashi) as sexual being? Is his sexual desire not, in fact, underpinned by a desire to extinguish his wife’s sexual desire for good? Is his sexual enjoyment not an enjoyment empowered by his fantasy to kill his wife and finally master her inextinguishable sexual desire? 

Kyo-netsu (2017) by Yuji Mitsuhashi

Kyonetsu is shot in a square format and in monochrome colours. What stands out in the narrative are the (pleasing) fast-paced montages between two subsequent scenes as well as the fabulous rotating-camera sequence. The former, the transition-montages, do not only visualize the passage of time, but also make, as these montages are ever supported by the singing of cicada’s, the summer atmosphere sensible.

Much of the power Kyo-netsu has is due to the musical accompaniment (violin-pieces). These atmospheric musical pieces do not only entrance – grasping the attention of the spectator from the very first second, but also underscore that something within the relation of the couple is highly problematic.   

Kyo-netsu (2017) by Yuji Mitsuhashi

Kyonetsu is an impressive narrative, but it does leave the spectator wanting more. To explore the complex relation between death, sexuality, and desire/enjoyment and touch upon the destructive role it can play within human subjectivity in a deep and truly gripping way within 17 minutes is structurally impossible. We can only hope that Yuji Mitsuhashi keeps working on this theme and story and transforms this beautiful and promising short-film into the truly gripping full-feature film it deserves to be. We’re waiting.

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