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Five Hearts

"What the hell just happened?"

Written by Steven Walker

I walked into the theater for Tetsuo at a midnight showing after working a 14 hour day split between my regular job and a volunteer shift at Fantastic Fest.  I was beyond exhausted and certain that I was going to fall asleep in the theater.  Within five minutes, I knew this was not possible.  Tetsuo: The Bullet Man is, without question, the most aurally assaulting movie I have ever seen.  I'm pretty sure the direction for the sound design team was, "Find every recording ever made of metal scraping or clanging together and put them all in one movie at the same time."  Since the Alamo Drafthouse has exquisite sound, every nuance of this metal-rending cacophony was force fed directly into my brain. 

I will describe the plot of Tetsuo, but any attempt to do so will make the movie sound more coherent than it actually is.  It is abstract Japanese body horror involving a man who transforms into a metal monster that can sprout guns from his body.  The Bullet Man is actually the third film in the Tetsuo series and I have not seen the first two.  I read, however, that the films are more like variations on a theme than traditional sequels so I was willing to break my rule of only watching a series in proper order.  This was a fine choice because the story, such as it is, does not require anything except a high toleration for visual and audio noise.  The term 'frenetic' is often thrown at movies with fast-paced editing, but this transcends frenetic.  It's like the editor decided to commit suicide by snorting a gram of crystal meth, downing an entire bottle of adderall, then locking himself in the editing suite for 48 hours until his heart exploded.

So basically the whole movie plays like a waking nightmare as told through an industrial rock video.  Trent Reznor even contributed to the score.

Another perplexing element is the dialogue, which is all in English, but clearly not written by an English speaking person.  It sounds like a really bad translation of Japanese dialogue that was never shown to an actual English speaker before they started production.  It's all bizarrely and painfully expository with zingers like, "Father, you must get over mother's death so you can get back to your research and enjoy life again."  Strangely, though, I'm left with the feeling that this stilted and mechanical dialogue may have been a conscience choice.  A way of underlining the theme of man and machine becoming inextricably mixed in our society, no matter how horrified we are by it. 

This all may sound harsh and negative, but the truth is that I really enjoyed it once my ears stopped bleeding.  The insane visuals, war-zone audio, and inhuman dialogue all collide to create something that is a truly unique and hard to forget.  I'm glad I saw it, but I'm confounded by what to rate it.  I chose no rating as more of a question mark than a judgement.  Maybe if I could figure out what actually happened in the final scenes I would be more generous.  I recommend it only if you have some warning about what you're getting into. 

 

 

 

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