Thursday, March 27, 2008

Take ir or leave it - Tetsuo The Iron Man

For some time, Mark has been insisting that I should watch "Tetsuo The Iron Man", and I finally found it for a very reasonable price in Play. I ordered it, and last night, we sat together to watch it.

Short little masterpiece, I would say (to start with). Think unglamorous, monochrome (entirely B&W), grainy and dark. And gory.

Subjacent theme is a sort of post-industrial grudge. A man obsessed with metal fetishism, is ran over by a car and dies (at least, I think he died). The car is driven by this salary man and his woman who, instead of helping, start having sex in front of the (dead or alive by then) body. They dump the body into a ravine and he suffers a mutation. Or to put into alchemical terms, a transmutation. At the same time, the salary man starts to hallucinate and sees himself changing in real life, culminating in his metamorphosis into a pile of retorted metal - or something to that effect. This realisation of the change and how to cope with it is memorable, but I won't give details here.

Soundtrack is brilliant and the film edition is amazing, I must say. From the metamorphose onwards, the story enters a frantic pace and things start to gradually make sense.

Visually, it reminded me of H. R. Giger's artwork and some 1920's expressionist films (makeup, facial expressions, body movements etc). I recall Wegener's "The Golem" for the dark atmosphere and the inhuman character of the protagonist(s), albeit in a totally distinct scenario of course. Also, "Metropolis" may come to mind for the post-industrial, man-machine relationship theme. The black and white footage and lack of dialogue lends it an air of silent movie almost, which greatly contributes to such associations, I guess.

I think it's brilliant because the story hardly needs any words to be understood (that is a merit, in my point-of-view), except perhaps with the flashback scene with the doctor, and the last scenes where the two main characters talk to each other and one of them says something like:

"Together we can rust this world. With our love we can destroy this world together", while entering a post-apocalyptical Tokyo scenario, empty streets, abandoned buildings and no other human beings, dead or alive, to be seen.

Homosexual metaphor. Metal mutation epidemics. Technopop hallucination. Cyberpunk fable. I think it's all these things together perhaps. And perhaps none of them at all.

Who is Tetsuo in the end? None of the two male characters is called Tetsuo. But the being resulting of the salary man and the fetishist's fusion. Almost like a homunculus born from a twisted alchemical process, a perverted "conjunctio". That is Tetsuo, or at least that's how I see it.

The film is directed, produced and starred by Shinya Tsukamoto - as the fetishist guy. We recently saw him as the main character in Takeshi Shimizu's "Marebito", which, truth to be told, failed to impress (not him as an actor, but the story itself). In the other hand, he directed a little gem of a film called "Vital", with Tadanobu Asano, one of my favourite J-Horror films (although I personally don't see it as "horror" at all). All that makes me think he must be no short of a genius.

(Thanks Mark, for introducing me to Tetsuo. Owe you one!)


  1. this is such a fantastic movie!
    the guy who directed it can actually be seen in the film "ICHI The Killer" He is the muscley oldish guy with the combover. (If you see the film you'll know him right away.

  2. Hiya! I thought it was great, although when I started vwatching I was like "uh oh, what am I up to...". But it was superb. I could hardly sleep afterwards.
    Do you believe I still haven't watched "Ichi the Killer"? Do you think I might like it? I mean, I heard it's quite strong and violent. Not that Tetsuo is not violent (ha ha!), but... I don't know... Should I? I must say I LOVE Tadanobu Asano for all obvious reasons, but...
    Well, talk to you later then!

  3. Well it is typical Mike over the top gore but it is almost comedic in it's severity. As long as you are a fan of Tadanobu then you will get something out of it. He is featured prominently and is just so damn cool in this film....
    Have you ever seen the film" Woman of the Water" (not sure about this translation In Japanese it is called MIZU NO ONNA) featuring him and the J-Pop singer UA? I am totally in love with UA and that film is really really lynchian in it's subtle oddness and underlying creepiness. Highly recommended!

  4. Hi!
    I love Tadanobu, however my husband call him "The Japanese Ralph Fiennes" in the sense that he always appears naked in the films, ha ha!
    UA? I need to look for that. I know he is married to Chara though (in real life I man) and she is OK. I am also checking about Mizu no Onna, sounds like something I will love.
    (OK. Checked. Just ordered it from YesAsia and will let you know. Thanks a mill for the indication!!!)
    As for Mike, I generally like his films a lot. I got "One Missed Call" this week and I am dying to watch it. The "Katakuris" was also hilarious - just love, love, love it to bits!
    Thanks a bunch and talk to you soon,