STARRING: Tomoro Taguchi, Kei Fujiwara, Nobu Kanaoka

1988, 67 Minutes, Directed by: Shinya Tsukamoto

It would seem that there is more to Japanese cinema than anime efforts like Akira and Wings of Honneamise. Take the cheap and gory stop motion effects of Sam Raimi's original Evil Dead movie, David Cronenberg's obsession with mutated body parts (as seen in Videodrome), film it in grainy Black & White like David Lynch did his weirdo Eraserhead, add an incessant techno soundtrack like Pi's and you have an idea of what to expect from the live action Tetsuo - The Iron Man.

But this all makes Tetsuo sound more interesting than it really is: it is really a Japanese Eraserhead and unlike let's say Pi, the film's plot is minimal to the point of non-existence. It's about a so-called "salaryman" (Japanese term for "suit" I suppose) who after being involved in a hit and run accident starts turning into, well, a man consisting of iron bits and pieces. (The movie's funniest moment has his penis turning into a huge drill!) Can you say avant-garde?

But even running at just something over an hour, Tetsuo becomes tedious as one is exposed to incessant speeded up footage and an annoying soundtrack. What little plot there is soon disappears somewhere between the interspersed flashbacks and the film's general surreal atmosphere. If you're squeamish, impatient or the type who yells "pretentious" a lot then you're advised to steer clear of Tetsuo

While Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel would no doubt have been proud, I was tempted to hit the fast forward button. On the video cover cyberpunk author William (Johnny Mnemonic) Gibson describes director Tsukamoto as a "visionary" - which is probably true, only problem being that whatever visions he had he saw in Eraserhead . . .

Followed by Tetsuo II - Body Hammer in 1992 which is apparently a sequel in name only. It is more of a remake with a bigger budget in color with a longer running time also directed by "visionary" Shinya Tsukamoto.


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