Tetsuo: The Iron Man (Shinya Tsukamoto / Japan, 1989):

"An endless almanac of terrifying wounds and insane collisions" (J.G. Ballard, Crash). The hurricane is brewed from Verhoeven, Kenneth Anger, and Jack Smith, among others, and sustained with satirical expressionism for indelible clamminess. Shinya Tsukamoto himself begins the frenzy by slicing open his thigh, the way another director once sliced an eyeball: A metal tube is fitted into the gash, the wound is taped shut yet steams with maggots when next seen. Tokyo is all queasy textures, a fetid, subterranean labyrinth full of machines pissing oil and blood; a bespectacled drone (Tomoro Taguchi) shaves in the morning and sees a nail protruding from his cheek, he touches it and it splatters like a rusty pimple. His girlfriend (Kei Fujiwara) is a frizzy-haired Theda Bara who appears in a dream with a snaky hose swinging from her loins, the protagonist gets on all fours to receive it ("No parking," screams one of the signs in the ensuing montage). Once awake, he bends her over to return the favor but instead a swirling power-drill emerges, fully erect, from his fly -- the ultimate penetration in a work full of violations. The film's still center lies in the doctor's glimpse into the modern brain, viewed through eyes that have become TV screens: "What the fuck is that?" (Altered States) From then on, it's an accelerating war between Taguchi, who has a junkyard's worth of metal encrusted to his body, and Tsukamoto, the fetishist with revenge on his mind. An offshoot of mechanization -- the world mutates you, you mutate it right back. Ray Harryhausen and Picasso's Bull's Head are amid the gags run to astonishing limits, Cronenberg's New Flesh is acknowledged and, climactically, accepted. With Nobu Kanaoka, Renji Ishibashi, and Naomasa Musaka. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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