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Tetsuo: The Iron Man
cast: Tomoroh Taguchi, and Kei Fujiwara

writer and director: Shinya Tsukamoto

65 minutes (18) 1990
Tartan Asia Extreme
DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by Porl Broome
Tetsuo has already become a classic of modern-underground cinema; its energy and imagery are at once captivating and claustrophobic. The story, such as it is, is confusing and entirely secondary to the Tetsuo 'experience'. It opens on what seems to be an average kind of guy (Tomoroh Taguchi) who, while preparing for work one day, finds a small piece of metal stuck in his chin. Upon pulling it, he begins to gush blood - it appears that the metal has come from him, rather than being a splinter from somewhere else. As the film progresses, the metal comes through thicker and faster, and the man becomes more metal than man.
   Elsewhere, a freaky masochist (played by the director, Shinya Tsukamoto) opens up his own arm and inserts pieces of metal into his flesh. His body's reaction to the intrusion of the metal sends him reeling into the road, where he is run over by the transforming businessman. Rather than the fetishist being destroyed by the impact, the two begin to merge, the metal encasing and penetrating them both, and together they combine to form a super-powerful, destructive creature which heads off toward the city bent on conquest.
   Shot on 16mm film in black and white, Tetsuo is an astute combination of bleak cyberpunk imagery, ultra-violent Japanese cinema, and music video techniques. Tsukamoto's energy and love of cinema permeates every scene, and the pace of the film is frankly blistering - with so much packed into its short running time, that it seems to pass in no time whatsoever. The low-budget film techniques employed by Tsukamoto, especially the copious stop-motion, also add to the film's dark charm. While it's true that the plot is confusing, and it's not always clear what's happening to whom, and in what timeframe, that's really of no consequence. Tetsuo should be watched with no agenda, as a visual feast, and as a timely reminder that there are always new directions for cinema to take.
   The word 'extreme' has never been more appropriate. Tetsuo is highly recommended for those with strong stomachs, a dark sense of humour, and a penchant for Cronenberg and (early) Lynch. While I first saw Tetsuo some 12 years ago, this is the first chance I've had to see an officially sanctioned release, and, considering the original 16mm medium, the image and audio quality of this DVD are surprisingly clear.
   Extras include filmographies of the director and cast, a promotional stills gallery, and the original trailer.