STRANGE JAPANESE FILMS
(by Lored Rhoads)
from Ongaku Otaku, #1, 1994-95,
Dir.Syouzin Fukui, 1991, color, 96 min
s u b j e c t :
A most peculiar, post-modern type of art film, this is the story of a Man whose
memory has been erased, and is then sold or rented for use As a sex puppet; hense
his name, Pinocchio (#964). The film opens with Pinocchio in bed with two women,
who drag him outside and abandon him. A young woman named Himiko finds him wandering
the streets, mute and stupid. As she takes him in, feeds him, and teaches him
his name, we see his "creator" shouting at his subordinates because Pinocchio
has been lost; something bad will happen if he is brought into contact with the
During flashbacks, we hear Pinocchio being told that "your memory will Never come
back". But as Himiko teaches him to talk, his brain reactivates And slowly his
memory does begin to return. As this happens, he begins Spurting blood and mucous
in a horrifyingly messy way. Himiko freaks out And goes screaming through a subway
station, vomiting big piles of starchy White stuff. Then things really get weird,
as she seems to go insane, and Welds manacles to Pinocchio with chains attached
to a pile of metal junk from a scrapyard. She proceeds to drag him through the
streets, telling him: "You're gonna be as you are".
Meanwhile, one of the doctor's men, searching for Pinocchio, finally Encounters
Himiko, who takes him to Pinocchio. More of the doctor's men Come, with a plan
to kill her and Pinocchio, but they fail, Pinocchio Escapes, and goes running
through the streets to the city's outskirts, Where he was created. The big showdown
with the doctor comes, as Pinocchio Yells "You said you would help me," then kills
him. The rest of the ending Is inexplicable, but almost everyone dies screaming.
Beautifully-made, this film would have benefitted from slightly more Editing;
a number of scenes go on for much longer than my patience did. Nonetheless, it's
enjoyable and entertaining. The soundtrack, by Dowser, Is superb.
s o u n d t r a c k :
DOWSER, 964 Soundtracks CD, Bron Records, Bron-D(ie)2
This soundtrack CD isn't very easily available these days, but there Are rumors
about a pending re-issue which is an extremely worthwhile project.
This collection of electronically-constructed themes is, unlike many Soundtracks,
quite listenable without the visual component. Alternately Rhythmic and ominous,
an impressive collection of strange noises are used to create a rather foreboding
soundscape of alien territory.
dir.Shinya Tsukamoto, black/white
Combining the inanimate stop-motion surrealism of Jan Svankmeier and the Brothers
Quay with Mike Jitlov's "Wizard of Speed and Time" jump-cuts, this movie's post-industrial
melange is beautifully decadent. "The Iron Man" had to be make in black and white
to allow the director's imagination free-reign. You really have to see it.
The plot of "The Iron Man" is simple enough to summarize: a salaryman and his
girlfriend are obsessed by sex and are punished for it. While fucking in his car
when he's driving, the salaryman and girlfriend run down the Metal Fetishist.
Granted, he'd run screaming into the middle of the road after he found maggots
in the gash in his thigh, but then he'd thrust an oily, rusted metal rod into
that gash in the first place. Follow me? It's not so linear in the movie, but
it eventually all makes sense.
Rather than take the wounded man to a hospital, the salaryman stuffs him into
the back of his car. He and his girlfriend drive to the park and roll the Fetishist
down an embankment to die. Then they have screaming sex against a tree.
The glorious revenge lifts this movie above any American sex-and suffering flick.
Somehow the Metal Fetishist has infected the salaryman with metal beneath his
skin. First there's a tiny steel splinter in his cheek. Next thing you know, his
penis has become a whirring two-foot-long drill. Of course the girlfriend dies
- women always do when they enjoy sex.
The erotic subtext kicks in when the Metal Fetishiist steps through the decaying
body of the girlfriend to bring the salaryman flowers. Things become increasingly
surreal until Rustman and Ironman fight the battle of the titans through an abandoned
industrial complex. In the end, the only weapon the Iron Man has in the face of
the corroding powers of Rustman (the Metal Fetishist) is his whirring penis. As
he "screws" the Fetishist, their bodies bind together into a colossus of metal.
The dialogue is so minimal, the movie can be followed without subtitles. However,
in translation, the homoerotica becomes a manifesto. As the two-headed colossus
trundles through a Japanese neighborhood (must have been something to see when
they were filming!), Tetsuo groans, "I feel great". The Fetishist/Rustman says,
"How about turning this whole world into metal and then we can rust it all...
Only love can put an end to this fucking world".
In the way that Evil Dead II was a sequel and remake to the first movie of that
name, Tetsuo II starts at a new beginning with a bigger budget to retell the story
of a man overwhelmed by machinery growing out of his body. Tomoroh Taguchi returns
as a man who can't control the metal.
The homoerotic manifesto of the previous movie has been removed. I think this
is the first time I've watched a director move from cult status to mainstream
in another culture. The compromises seem the equivalent.
Tetsuo is still a salaryman, now living in a bright clean Tokyo apartment with
his wife and son. He tells his wife that he's just had a dream of his real parents.
He has no memories before the age of eight, before his foster parents adopted
Two shaved-headed goons dressed in black terrorize the family in a crowded mail.
They shoot Tetsuo in the chest with an odd mechanical gun before kidnapping the
boy. None of the other shoppers pay any attention. The way they turn away from
the drama is creepy.
Despite the pain in his chest, Tetsuo helps his wife recapture their son. The
boy is kidnapped a second time from inside their apartment. Tetsuo chases the
same guy onto the roof. Anger transforms Tetsuo into a flame which vaporizes the
boy when the bald man holds him up as a shield. Laughing, the kidnapper escapes.
Tetsuo has a premonition that all will be destroyed.
Tetsuo himself is kidnapped by the goons and locked into an industrial strength
virtual reality helmet. Because he's such "a mild specimen", they have chosen
him as the guinea pig for a special gun that will allow them to turn their bodies
into weapons at will. They torture him with images of his son's death until gun
barrels protrude from his chest and he shoots the place up.
Little did they know, Tetsuo is actually the long-lost brother of the man running
the humans-into-machinery show. Nameless, the mastermind is dressed in the same
runner's uniform with an X on his chest as the Metal Fetishist from the previous
movie. I'll call him MF for short. When they were children, the MF and his older
brother were given guns by their father, guns that mutated into their arms and
became part of their bodies. The boys see their father fucking their mother at
gun point - then blow off the back of her head at the point of orgasm. Eight-year-old
Tetsuo transforms his entire body into a weapon and kills Dad. This is the source
of his memory loss.
The movie reminded me a lot of the french film "Diva", with its layer upon layer
of interconnection and coincidence. It's also reminiscent of "Videodrome", with
things materializing in and out of men's bodies.
Without the grunge and dirt of "The Iron Man", director Tsukamoto falls back on
style. Whole scenes are shot with blue or red gels, or in stark white and black
sets that leach the colors from the film. The beauty of the devastation was more
apparent in monochrome. Still, the flash images of cells, crystals, and writhing
metal are very worth watching.
Tsukamoto sneaks homoerotica into the film with a gratuitous scene of bald, greased
bodybuilders which combines the look of a Madonna video (circa "Express Yourself")
with Fritz Lang's "Metropolis". I wish there had been more art in "Tetsuo II",
and less gun-slinging, even if the guns did protrude from people's arms or chests.
s o u n d t r a c k :
Chu Ishikawa, Tetsuo, CD, Japan Overseas, JO94-0
After a limited release on Japanese label F2, this collection of music from the
Tetsuo and Tetsuo II films was happily re-issued for sale outside Japan by Japan
Overseas. As those who have seen the films can attest, the music is an extremely
powerful, important part of the experience. Using clanging metal percussion to
create driving rhythms, Ishikawa's music propels the action on-screen. At other
moments, electronic and acoustic scrapes and tones lend a feeling of dread and
uneasiness which is important in helping the films keep the viewer off-balance.
Also importantly, the music is strong enough to stand well on its own. Within
the films, it's an important character, and outside the films it remains a mesmerizing
ORIGINAL TEXT/CONTACT: Ongaku Otaku, P.O.Box 170277, San Francisco, CA 94117-0277,
CONTACT: Ongaku Otaku, P.O.Box 170277, San Francisco, CA 94117-0277, USA