Tetsuichiro Tsuta first impressed audiences with Island of Dreams (2008), a film reminiscent of the golden age of cinema. He corroborated his talent by delivering The Tale Of Iya (2013), a film that toured international festivals and even succeeded to win some prizes.
Now, he delivers his third feature film, Tamano Visual Poetry: Nagisa’s Bicycle, a film about cycling and Keirin racing in Okayama prefecture.
Episode 1: beautiful bicycle racing. After lashing out against a younger keirin racer, fifty-year old Shin Oshima (Shin Miyake) decides to take an anger management seminar.
The first episode highlight how anger management courses give their clients a technique to short-circuit sudden bursts of anger without uncovering the specific logic that underpins the subject’s anger. For Oshima, his anger is not simply the fact that his end as a keirin racer is nearing, but that, when he loses this social position, a certain emptiness awaits (Narra-note 1).
Episode 2: Nagisa’s Bicycle. One day, Nagisa (Nagisa Kashima) finds a racing bicycle that has washed ashore on the coast. She cleans it and takes it for a ride, discovering, for the first time, the joy of cycling. After her ride, she discovers the Tamano city Velodrome.
Why does Nagisa find so much enjoyment in cycling. Is it merely because it gives her a phantasmatic taste of freedom? In our view, the act of cycling gives her pleasure because it allows her to temporarily escape the pressure of her father (Jimmy Onishi) – i.e. get married, and gives her a phantasmatic taste of freedom. To put it more poetically, the wind that caresses her cycling body allows her to indulge in a fantasy of flying away from the expectations of the Other.
Episode 3: Oil and Ice. Sunako (Yuriyan Retriever) is in love with her colleague Hiroshi (Katamari Mizukawa). Yet, one day, much to her surprise, he decides to quit his work at the shipyard. He starts working at a newly opened shaved-ice-truck. Sunaoka, who follows him around, is disgusted by how Momo (Miyako Sono), his colleague, interacts with him.
The last episode delivers a pretty straight-forward love-narrative. It concerns a male subject that is blind for the female subject that desires him. Yet, it is by making a mistake, a mistake of desire something else and, for that purpose, betraying himself as subject, that he might or might not find a way back to the subject that, already, desires him.
All three episodes are fluidly interconnected. The bicycle features in the first narrative turns up in the second, the presence of the goat of the second narrative is explained by the third narrative. And the result of the race in the first narrative plays an instrumental role in determining the outcome of the third.
The first and the last episode give, in their own specific way, an insight into the keirin racing sport. The first episode, for instance, visualizes what happens before a race (e.g. the checking of bicycles, the opponents taking a communal bath, …etc.). The third narrative touches upon the gambling side of the Keirin racing sport.
The composition of Tamano Visual Poetry: Nagisa’s Bicycle offers a balanced blend of static and dynamic movement. Beyond giving his triptych-like narrative a pleasant visual rhythm, Tsuta also beautifully exploits dynamism to illustrate the poetic beauty of battling bicycles and the physical of the body that, by pedalling rhythmically, gives the bicycle its speed. Tsuta also heightens the visual pleasure of his composition by integrating some nicely composed shots.
Tamano Visual Poetry: Nagisa’s Bicycle is a pleasant triptych narrative that explores the joy of cycling and the beauty of Keirin racing. Yet, despite delivering three engaging and visually beautiful narratives, the short nature of overall narrative undercuts the impact the movie could have had. This is, in our view, one of the rare cases where a movie is too short for its own good.
Narra-note 1: His anger towards his junior is, in this sense,driven by a certain envy – he throws away all his potential by not taking his training seriously, while my potential is draining due to my age.