Tetsuo: The Iron Man is a film that utterly escapes me when I try and put it into words, and for once, that does not come with a disclaimer that says that is a good thing. Considered a hallmark in the genre of cyberpunk, this Japanese release from the… “mind” of Shinya Tsukamoto struck me as really weird for the first ten minutes, and only got weirder from there. This is another interesting case of the lack of proofreading the book seems to have gone through; the book incongruously lists this film as a 1998 release, when it was actually made a decade earlier. I just wanted to make note of that before we continue.
I didn’t know what to initially expect from this one, other than it being in black and white, but little could I have foreseen what was to come, even from the film’s technical aspects. The film’s movement shots are all the ultimate in shaky-cam; you can barely comprehend what is taking place even when the camera is simply following a person from behind; not that the static shots are all that decipherable either. The sound effects and dialogue were very obviously done with foley work and overdubbing, which meant that I could never really be fully immersed in whatever world the film was presenting to me. With the extremely stark black-and-white chiaroscuro cinematography (think Pi, but even more saturated) and art-house influences in both the story and how it is presented, the whole thing feels like a student art project gone awry, and there were parts of the film that I watched that made me wonder how this got released at all, that a film producer watched a print of this film and said, “Yes, that is something I would want to spend the money to release to a wide theatrical audience.” Then again, all indications are that this was an underground release, but still, my point remains.
The film is so incomprehensible that it borders on the laughable; I should give additional thanks to Wikipedia and their plot summary for this film; otherwise, I would have had no idea whatsoever what was going on or what this one was about. The poster up there likens it to a weird Japanese 1970’s hybrid of David Cronenberg and David Lynch, and I think that’s spot on; the effects and the alternate reality that this film utilizes are so bizarre that Cronenberg would probably applaud, and so obscure that Lynch would nod his head in approval. The one thing I can say about Tetsuo is this: it is certainly an experience unlike anything you have ever seen before. Now, thankfully, I don’t have to experience it again, at least for some time.
Arbitrary Rating: 3/10