Analysis / Review: Tetsuo: The Iron Man [1989]

a review by the Azure-winged Magpie (aren’t I pretty?!)
(ft. the Crow)

‘a disturbed review for a disturbing film.’


Chatter-chatter bitchuz!

So the time has come… The Crow and the Azure-winged Magpie meet once again. Feathers will be plucked and scattered. Beaks will be broken. And-

Oh wait. He’s actually being nice to me (what’s wrong with him?!). He let me delete his intro to my first post and left me the whole TCR template!

[Backstory:] I was originally going to do a review of Frozen, but the Crow straight threw that in the bin after reading it. So I’m doing something more up my alley since he’s already mentioned it on this blog (which I didn’t force him to do – no I didn’t). And hey, if a weird film wasn’t the subject of my first post… something would be wrong with this world. 

But before I get into it – why oh why Crow would you have me as a homesitter? Make no mistake Crow. This WordPress blah is all new to me, but I’m here to TAKE OVER!


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OPENING THOUGHTS

So what makes Tetsuo so special to me? Well, I’m partially-somewhere-down-the-line Japanese. And I like weird shit. And bitches… Tetsuo: The Iron Man’s as weird as they come.

You thought of Robert Downey Jr (mmm-hmmm!) when you spotted the title. Didn’t you? This ain’t that Iron Man. This is a sorta-surreal sorta-cyberpunky sorta-horrorish have-you-done-too-many-drugs? kinda film. It’s hard to put a box around this one. It’s a lot of things at once. It’s also got lots of… I dunno – depth? to it. Analysing things is usually the Crow’s business. But I’ll try and give you a quick and short of the shit going on in here since he’s left it to me and just run away.

Once I’m done going through WTH happens in the film, The Crow’ll drop in to offer a few thoughts. And we’ll talk about WTF it’s about.


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WHAT THE HELL?!

WARNING: THIS SECTION CONTAINS SPOILERS BUT IT MAKES ABSOLUTELY NO GODDAMN SENSE ON THE SURFACE SO WHO CARES?

[Note: This was originally a full synopsis. It’s been cut down to make this post a little more SFW. The original is available upon request.]

So let’s see what KAIJU THEATRE PRESENTS in its REGULAR-SIZE MONSTER SERIES.

regular-size
You thought I was joking, didn’t you?

So er… this plonker (The Metal Fetishist) walks around a bit. He gets to what I think is his home. Then after looking around a whole lot, he cuts open his leg and shoves some threaded metal into it.

ʘ…okay

When he finds creepy crawlies festering in the cut, the dude screams and runs all willynilly into the street where he gets – run over (to crappy daytime comedy/porno music). The people who run him over decide to get rid of the dude’s body by chucking him over the side of a hill. And then… then they… they do the diddly-do.

(ʘ _ ʘ)

Everything after the accident is all shown in flashbacks over the course of the film. We get a scene where the driver of the car (the Salaryman) finds a bit of metal poking out of his cheek. He tries to pick it out like any other old fogey. But as we find out soon: Could it be… that it wasn’t poked into him?! Could it be that it was poking out of him?!

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Following a surprise-fight with this chick who gets turned into a robo-zombie, which ends when Salaryman ‘go HULK SMASH! URRR!‘ and he somehow straight up murks the robo-zombie bitch.

Over time the Salaryman seems to become fused with every bit of metal he touches (or is it that they’re growing out of him?). What happens over the next few scenes is best told via my reactions to it

(ಠ ‿ ಠ… (ʘ _ ʘ) … (ʘ っ ʘ!

Swear down. I am not just pasting those in for hyperbole. That was my face at the time. Just look at what’s going on:

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And yes, that thing there’s exactly what it looks like.

So, it turns out that the Metal Fetishist is alive. He’s been torturing Mr Joe Salaryman from far-far away by giving him this bonkers infection (or whatever you want to call it). The two meet shortly after the scene which made me go (ʘ っ ʘ! and once the Salaryman recognises who it is who’s come to say ‘hi! harro! how are you?!’ to him (flowers and everything) the Fetishist tells him how he wants to show him something wonderful. A new world! 

This new world is made entirely out of metal and machinery. Here all organic matter is taken apart by metal. And it looks pretty appropriate that everything’s pushed-up-daisies.

The two fight after the Salaryman tries to run the feck away and the Fetishist chases after him. It’s a long chase. And it’s a strange fight. By this point Joe Salaryman’s more like Robo-Salaryman and the Fetishist (who’s more human-looking) is pretty much robotified as well.

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It ends in a warehouse sorta place. Where the Salaryman’s figures out that he has the same technology-manipulating powers as The Metal Fetishist. And he uses it against the bastid.

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The Metal Fetishist rants and raves about how the future is metal before the Salaryman surprise-shafts him with his ‘man-banana-drill’ (clarification redacted because the Crow’s a bitch). The Metal Fetishist begins to rust away. In a strange change of tone… he asks the Salaryman if he really wants to rust himself to death.

The two enter a strange new phase in the fight, where the Salaryman ‘absorbs’ The Metal Fetishist into his body using his newfound powers while continuing to transform into a gigantic worm-like monster.

But…! He’s pulled back into his own body! We cut to a scene of the two men circling each other (upside down) like in a dance. It’s set to that same cheesy porno-like music from earlier in the film. The writing on the crosshatch outside the warehouse reads:

NEW WORLD

And then the two undergo a further transformation and combine into a giant kaiju-like creature made of metal. The Metal Fetishist takes the place of the head. While the Salaryman kind of hangs off to the side.

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They have the following conversation:

M: We can mutate the whole world into metal

S: …ah…

M: We can rust the world into the dust of the universe

S: let’s do it…

M: Our love can destroy this whole fucking world
Get ’em!

And then they rampage through the city at breakneck speed.

So…

…yeah


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WHAT THE FUCK?!

See… I knew the Crow was going to want to at least have a few thoughts in on this pile of glorious scrap. So I’ve been very patiently waiting for him to get back to me. And he just did.

Crow?! Where are you? Heeere birdy-birdy!

The Crow

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A long time ago, I was made aware that Tetsuo: The Iron Man could be read as a metaphor for being gay in Japan (as in: the country at the time of the movie’s release). While I see that, there’s more complexity to it than just a simple, I’d say. If true, we’re dealing with some pretty heavy stuff.

With a movie like this, it’s always going to be difficult to pin down an exact interpretation. It could be taken as a lot of things, to be honest; but first, let me talk about a specific sequence which I think is significant to the movie (but I don’t generally see talked about):

It happens around the time when the Metal Fetishist is chasing the Salaryman to the place of their final showdown. This is when the Fetishist is using the full force of his technomancy against the Salaryman, and they begin to share a hallucination.

We come across this older man, who after brandishing a stick somewhat suggestively, proceeds to beat the daylights out of the dreamer. Now, while the Salaryman is the one being beaten in the scenes, the movie makes it clear that this is a memory of the Fetishist’s that the Salaryman is somehow accessing.

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It puts me in mind of child abuse.

Now, I’m not going to deal with what happens in the movie as fact, so let’s follow the motifs:

Abuse down, sexual imagery is everywhere. Penises, homoeroticism, a racy female… and in a way, they all point to something to do with homosexuality.

There any many sorts of ideas that one can take out of the movie, but I think that they can’t really be spoken of without a clear reminder that one has to keep in mind the rapidly-changing culture of Japan at the time.

  • To begin with, we have the fear of homosexuality. The Salaryman could be seen to have repressed homosexual tendencies, which he tries to keep out of his mind. The girlfriend’s horror at the sight of the “drill” could be her reaction to finding out he’s gay, and her reaction is what spurs on his violent reaction.
  • The fetishist is chasing the protagonist throughout the movie. He perverts the only other woman we see in the movie into a strange monstrosity (immediately following the Salaryman’s encounter with her does he have a hallucination involving his girlfriend contrary to all the interplay we see between the two in the movie). And when he presents himself from out of the (ex-)girlfriend’s remains? He presents the Salaryman with flowers.
  • The two have a strange love/hate relationship throughout the movie. At the very end, though, the Salaryman is completely under the Fetishist’s control. A successful seduction, perhaps?
  • It’s also easy to consider the “metal” infection to be some form of venereal disease that at once unites and divides the main characters.

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Now, that’s a very quick and general overview. Add to that the child abuse angle, and the way the Salaryman is portrayed. What we have is no clear thread, but a lot of angles involving attitudes towards homosexuality in a country like Japan in ’89.

Some are quite disturbing (the abuse angle and all the connotations that brings), some are in regards to an ‘awakening’ of sorts, and some are straight-up in your face.

Perhaps this is a movie to be pieced out and studied closer. I myself haven’t watched it in some time, so I might have to revisit it and piece the above arguments out.

There’s also a few things I could say about this movie in regards to Futurism – a movement I’m very nostalgic about – but considering that this might be due a future study, I’ll leave it out for the moment.

That’s just my thoughts for the moment. I’ll let the Magpie pick things up from here on out.

– Crow out.

The Azure-winged Magpie

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Well that was interesting. Wasn’t it? Anyway. I’m the MC. Here’s my ‘What the fuck’ about this film:

I guess those who think of it as a metaphor for being gay or having a realisation that you’re gay could be right. Some people say it’s about dependence on technology. I don’t agree with that one really.

The way I see it is that it’s really just a surreal film showing off the hyperbole of anime and the rise of strange new technology in the year of 1989. 1989 was a year when lotsa things happened. And it’s only natural for it to roll over into film and stuff like that. I also got to point out that it was released just over a year after Akira (which I’ll be reviewing soon once the Crow figures out how to write about Ghost in the Shell).

Just think about it: isn’t Tetsuo (think of the name too) similar in some ways to Akira? Tetsuo’s a very common name in Japan. But I think there’s some value to the idea. After all – the Akira manga started running in 1982. That’s more than enough time to have an influence. Tetsuo: the Iron Man just made it weirder and scaled it down.

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But hey! It’s a weird film. And I love weird. Tetsuo’s one of my favourite offbeat films of all time. I really like the visuals in it. They’re weird and a bit hard-to-follow but they’re really arty-and-stuff. Really random and cool.

I’ve never watched the sequels but I really want to! Maybe I’ll pick em up some time. The names Body Hammer and Bullet Man just make me think they’ll be awesome!


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CLOSING THOUGHTS

So there we have it. The Azure-winged Magpie’s very first Corvid Review! Hello one! Hello all! I’m so happy to meet you. And as long as you bitchuz love your new Dear Leader… well – I’ll be nice to you.

But enough about your new Dear Leader.

Tetsuo’s a great film for when you’re not sure if you’ve done enough drugs. This film packs a punch. It’ll get you there. For the best sorta watching – watch it without knowing about it. But then… we’ve kind of spoiled it for you. It doesn’t matter anyway. It’s still a great film to watch because of how Monday-to-Friday hard it is to actually tell someone about it.

How hard is it? It’s this hard:

@~@`)

So… I recommend it as a film to watch just for something different. It breaks every rule in the book because it’s one of those art-house thingies. I love it. If you don’t – fair enough… but remember that Dear Leader is watching you.

Later, bitchuz!


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FINAL RATINGS

Azure-winged Magpie: 8/10

The Crow: 6.5/10


And by the way. Tetsuo made this next line cool in films way before that pretender Jigsaw (who I may or may not talk about soon).

(◔◡◔)

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