Monday, November 2, 2009


Above left: "I AM IROOOOON MAN."
Above right: "No, I'm Iron Man."
Above left: "But I want to be Iron Man."
Above right: "You always get to be Iron Man."

Above: 1989's Tetsuo: The Iron Man, aka David Lynch, Franz Kafka, and William Gibson's black-and-white version of I Know What You Did Last Summer.

Jesus Christ.
The third feature film by Japanese underground director Shinya Tsukamoto, Iron Man is one of those rare films that must truly be seen to be believed, and seen several more times to even begin being mentally digested. Shot in an unsettling, jerky 16mm format, it plays out like a surreal nightmare, full of creeping paranoia and jarring images, a Kafkaesque (just wanted to use that term) puzzle wrapped up in a mix of high art and vulgar gore.
The film begins with choppy shots of a freaky dude (known only as "The Man" or "Machine Fetishist") surgically inserting a rusty steel pipe into his own leg (above, right). Things go downhill fast from there.

A quick example of Tetsuo's stop-motion awesomeness:

Below: Actually, yeah. He is Iron Man.

Next off, Machine Fetishist freaks out (there is A LOT of "freaking out" in this movie) and runs into the street, where he is promptly hit by a car driven by "Japanese Salaryman". Here's where the I Know What You Did Last Summer connection kicks in, as Salaryman decides to dump Fetishist's body rather than facing up to the consequences of his heinous crime. This, of course, sets off a brutal, twisted chain of events, with the resurrected Machine Fetishist pursuing the Salaryman in an attempt to extract posthumous revenge.
But it gets even more strange. It seems Salaryman is now turning into a robot, with chunks of metal sprouting out of his arms and face (below). What follows are several stylized battles and chase scenes between Machine Fetishist and Salaryman (now becoming "Iron Man"), as well as a disturbing turn for the worse concerning the sexual relationship between Salaryman and his girlfriend. Oops!

Um, OK:

Oh, and did I mention that at one point Iron Man's dink turns into some sort of pneumatic drill (below), which his girlfriend (right) isn't too happy about either?
Because it does, and that's only the tip of the iceberg concerning the weirdness of this particular film. Part J-Horror, part Art House, part live-action anime, and part action movie, Tetsuo: The Iron Man is an absolutely fucked up, absolutely brilliant little chunk of no-budget filmmaking, probably one of the darkest and most surreal creations to ever surface on The Land of the Rising Sun. I used to thik that turning into a robot might be kind of fun. Iron Man changed my mind.

Netflix it here. Buy it here. But don't say I didn't warn you.

Trailer for the sequel, 1992's Tetsuo II: Body Hammer. I've never seen it. Part 3 is reportedly coming in 2010.

*A shiny nickel goes out to anyone who can tell me where the bad pun that serves as the title of this post came from.**

**Supplies are limited, certain restrictions may apply.


Helm said...

Don't know about the pun, but I love this film. Sadly the sequel didn't work for me. It seems we share tastes on a lot of stuff, if you ever are in Greece let me know, I'll buy you a lemonade.

Shelby Cobras said...

We like the same stuff, yes.

I'm not planning a trip to Greece anytime soon, but the offer stands for you, too. If you're ever in San Francisco, I'll buy you a Diet Sprite.

jeremy said...

I know I'm way too late, and I don't want no stinkin' nickel anyway. I just want to show off my obscene nerdness.

I'm sayin' the Butthole Surfers.