Today: July 18, 2024

Tetsuo

The trailer for Alejandro Jodorowsky’s alternative western El Topo asks you to “be prepared for the most wonderful experience of your life”

The
trailer for Alejandro Jodorowsky’s alternative
western El Topo asks you to “be
prepared for the most wonderful experience of your life”.

Despite this claim El Topo wasn’t the most wonderful experience of yours or
anybodies life. It was completely mad and unique but it wasn’t wonderful and
was probably only inserted to boost Jodorowsky’s already sizeable ego. The
phrase “the most wonderful experience of your life” perhaps shouldn’t be
applied to Tetsuo either but with a slight bit of tweaking a similar
phrase could be used.

For the first time ever Shinya
Tsukamoto’s
cult masterpieces come to Blu -ray. For anyone who has never
seen the Tetsuo films, they are extremely hard films to describe and are even
more baffling after watching them. To put it simply they are about people who
turn into lumps of metal in a series of brutal and horrific ways. The films are
thin on plot but more than make up for the lack of narrative with some
unbelievable pieces of editing and generally outrageous special effects and
makeup. If that still doesn’t give you a clear idea then you should refer
yourself to the original poster for Tetsuo, where the main quote reads;
“Imagine if Davids Lynch and Cronenberg in their early ‘70s avant
garde days, had collaborated on an early draft of Terminator 2 and
decided to shoot in Japan, home of Godzilla, manga comic strips
and post nuclear mutation”. That quote seems to perfectly sum up all of the
themes that Tetsuo covers; Sci-fi, horror, really bizarre surrealism and
hideous, incomprehensible bodily transformations. Tetsuo really is a film that has to be seen to be believed.

Of the two films being released in this
package, the first, Tetsuo: The Iron Man is by far the best. And before
any conclusions are jumped to, no this has absolutely nothing to do with Tony
Stark
. It’s actually highly likely that if Iron Man was confronted
with this Iron Man then the Avenger would probably run a mile out of sheer
horror. The opening scene to this film is of a man slicing open part of his leg
and inserting into it a large metal rod which then becomes infested with
maggots. From the very opening scene Shinya Tsukamoto sets the tone in a
graphic and unrelenting manner. Its probably one of the tamer scenes within the
film but, without a shadow of a doubt, shows the movies intent and purpose
almost immediately. From there on in it is an intense, unrelenting and hypnotic
experience that will leave any viewer gasping for breath. There is nothing
repetitious, as if to heighten the level of insanity that you are witnessing.
But when saying that this doesn’t mean the film is entirely harrowing or
disturbing. There are quite a few laughs to have here, just mainly at the
absurdity of the proceedings. The best example of this is when the main
character, known only as The Man, has part of his body turn into something
resembling The Mole from Thunderbirds. The particular body part
will remain disclosed.

When comparing it to other films its
hard to look beyond two choices. Tsukamoto’s industrial backdrop, with its
oppressive nature and terrifying overtones is reminiscent of David Lynch’s Eraserhead. Especially the early scenes
where we see characters roaming around scrap yards and factory sites. They are so similar to the scenes of
Henry walking the featureless streets of Eraserhead, that you could be fooled
into thinking that they were companion pieces made decades apart. The other
less than obvious partner to Tetsuo is Ingmar Bergman’s Persona. The editing style has clearly been
influence by Bergman. Scenes often stop and start and are then intercut with
others in a very primordial and kinetic fashion, akin to scenes used in Persona
as the two stories intertwine with each other. A lot of stop animation is used
in scenes to suggest travel, making Tetsuo one of the most artfully made horror
movies ever.

As for Tetsuo II: Body Hammer,
it is by far the weaker film of the two but there are still things to admire
about it. Seen as a retelling of the original film, Tetsuo II received a far
bigger budget and also added a lot more story. This time the concept of the
Iron Man has been adopted by a gang of skinheads who seek to use the Iron Man
as a weapon. Much more of a
science fiction action movie rather than a science fiction horror, Tetsuo II is
let down in parts by trying to over compensate through a sense of surrealist
action. This causes more problems and actually holds back on a lot of the films
philosophies. That being said there is still a lot of fun to be had here. Like
the original it is still completely and utterly bonkers but the cinematography
now has a beautiful blue sheen to it that is reminiscent of art house greats
like Krzysztof Kieslowski but also trash pioneers like Albert Pyun. Lacking
in the raw energy of its predecessor, Tetsuo II struggles to make anything of
its confusing story but on the whole it is still a noteworthy sequel.

The biggest compliment you can pay
Tetsuo is that it will appeal to a wide range of film fans. Anime geeks will
lap up the many references and ideologies that films like Ghost in the Shell
and Evangelion borrowed from these. Horror fans will appreciate the
surreal and visceral images that at times can outshine the likes of Lynch and
Cronenberg. Highbrow art house fans may even find time to enjoy Tsukamoto’s
more contemplative areas where he channels the likes of Kieslowski and Wong
Kar Wai.
As for it being ‘the most wonderful experience of your life’,
which it certainly isn’t, what more appropriate phrase should be used? Well it
easily ranks up there as one of the top 5 weirdest films ever made. So
therefore; Ladies and Gentlemen, be prepared for the weirdest experience of
your entire life. You wont regret it.

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