No Beginning, No End / Hajimari mo owari mo nai / 始まりも終わりもない
Shunya Ito’s long career has ranged from exploitation classics (Female Convict 701: Scorpion) to award-winning mainstream entertainments (Gray Sunset). He’s kept his followers on their toes and now in his late career, he’s still keeping true to his muse with another left turn. No Beginning, No End features Min Tanaka, butoh-esque dancer, going through 95 minutes of an extended dance-on-film performance. There’s no dialogue, just Min and a small cast of characters going through an expressionistic/surrealistic ritual of life and death, leavened with a bit of social critique. The images are strong and elemental, even if the set pieces can be a bit corny. There’s mud, fire and water abounding. Despite the facile workings of BIG themes, what makes the film a pleasure is the pure intensity of Tanaka’s performance. As a sort of everyman he rules the screen, mostly unclothed, as he moves through mud, ruins, rivers, city streets on his relentless trajectory. His movement and rhythm trump any meaning. Extra props for a sequence of him dragging himself naked down Omotesando Dori.
Originally published in EL Magazine, December 2013.