Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)


It is hard to really describe Tetsuo: The Iron Man as a movie.  It barely makes it to feature length and has much more in common with music videos, despite the obvious influence of movies like Eraserhead and Videodrome.  Director, writer and actor Shin'ya Tsukamoto may be trying to say something but, if he is, it's buried under visuals and random events where the only thing that does become apparent are some homosexual undertones as it reaches its climax.

The Metal Fetishist (Tuskamoto) is out for a jog after inserting a rusty pipe into his leg when he gets hit by a car driven by the Salary Man (Tomorô Taguchi).  Sometime afterward the Man finds a piece of metal protruding from his cheek while shaving.  The Fetishist manages to possess a girl in the Tokyo subway (Nobu Kanaoka) who pursues the Salary Man, who escapes.

The escape is temporary as he finds himself changing, much to the dismay of his girlfriend (Kei Fujiwara).  Soon the reason for the Metal Fetishist's revenge becomes apparent, while the Salary Man begins to accept - and even enjoy - what is happening to him. 

That really doesn't get into all the random stuff that happens, and it is good that the film is as short as it is.  It could have been shorter, and may have been better that way.  Adapted from a play Tsukamoto did in college, the black and white filming is a highlight, as is the makeup and stop-motion/time-lapse effects, also done by him.  Even at the length it is the movie does seem padded with too many unnecessary scenes of our protagonist and antagonist flying along the street. 

Unlike its influences it doesn't seem to be as well thought out.  That might be weird to say about a film like Eraserhead, but every scene in that movie is there for a reason and, underneath it all, there is a plot even if it's quite thin.  Other than the revenge factor there is not much to hold Tetsuo together.  Visually it's entertaining, but it quickly becomes annoying and, at times, boring. 

The other redeeming feature is the music, and if this whole thing was just over a half-hour long, with the music and the more memorable scenes, it would be much more satisfying.  As it is this feels like a demo reel or a school project made by someone with talent but who still needs guidance when it comes to making a satisfying feature. 

Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)
Time: 64 minutes
Starring: Tomorô Taguchi, Shin'ya Tsukamoto, Kei Fujiwara
Director: Shin'ya Tsukamoto

 

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