Take a spoonful of David Lynch, a little helping of Pi and more than a healthy measure of David Cronenberg then liberally soak in some miso paste for an hour or so and you have some approximation of the utterly bonkers, but at times brilliant, Tetsuo: The Iron Man.
There is meaning and a bit of a story buried in there but, like many of the characters onscreen, it is warped and hidden under metal and wires and a mass of technological interference. All you need to know is that, basically, a man starts to become more and more metallic throughout the film. That’s not all that the film is about, by far, but that’s all you need to know before deciding whether or not to watch it.
It’s black and white, runs for about 67 minutes and provides quite an unrelenting experience for those able to endure it. Of course, writer-director Shinya Tsukamoto (who also stars in the film) clearly doesn’t care about those who won’t be able to endure it. There are no choices made here that pander to a mainstream audience, whether it’s the occasional moments of gore or the confusing structure that flips around reality and perceived reality and also the chronology of events. The whole thing skirts very close to being “cult by design” if you disassemble the pieces and inspect every separate element but the good thing is that the movie is a dense mish mash not easily untangled.
Not something I’d rush to watch again, Tetsuo: The Iron Man stands up as a fine achievement and it’s something I am pleased to have finally seen. It made my eyes widen as I took in the myriad of startling images, it made my ears twitch with the pounding soundtrack that adds to both the experience and the times of discomfort and it even made me laugh on occasion. Quite an experience and one that may please fans of Crash (David Cronenberg’s version), in particular. Part endurance test, part maniacal and fevered nightmare, the whole thing adds up to something quite unlike anything else you’ve ever seen, despite a surprisingly high number of attempts.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: SHINYA TSUKAMOTO
STARS: SHINYA TSUKAMOTO, TOMOROWO TAGUCHI, KEI FUJIWARA, NOBU KANAOKA
RUNTIME: 67 MINS APPROX