“Destruction is all I need.” Tetsuo II was the right movie to watch after Videodrome, another analog video fetish film where flesh becomes guns.
Thugs keep tormenting a family, stealing their young son. They shoot the dad in the chest with some gadget while kidnapping the kid in a record store, then later, dad’s arm turns into a weapon and he blows the kid to bits.
The kidnappers return to a subterranean fight club factory of machinery-weightlifting space monkeys, where Goth Lord Shinya considers the transmogrifying gadget a success and orders everyone to be injected, to build an army. But the dad wasn’t transmogrified, it turns out he ironmanned himself out of pure rage, and he has a history of doing this. Same cast as the previous two movies, and practically a remake… it gets too plotty (Goth Shinya is IronDad’s brother), but if the alarming monochrome cyberpunk vision of part one isn’t fresh in your mind, it’ll do.
The Adventures of Electric Rod Boy / The Great Analog World (1987)
A half-feature made between Phantom of Regular Size and the first Tetsuo. Sure it’s yet another human-machine-merge movie (and watched the same week as Videodrome and Titane, wow) but this adds new twists to the Early Tsukamoto playbook: a vampire gang having covered the skies with a nuclear cloud so they can roam outside without fear of sunlight.
Boy with an electricity pole growing out of his back seems to be a gag, so he’ll conk his tormentors when he bows apologetically. The movie opens with silent-film silliness, and contains some extreme stop-motion, both in creeping metal cables winding over people and in the hoverboards the vamps ride down the city streets. Our guy travels into the future, meets Woman In Glasses (I’ve now seen Nobu Kanaoka’s complete filmed works) and an older electricity-pole guy who claims only they can save the world. Indeed, the Rod Boy apologizes so hard after his professor friend is killed, he takes out the robot vampire powering the global destruction machine.
Watching this for the first time in many years, right after Unfriended 2, a double feature of movies about perverted signals. Unfriended is purely digital, while this is the most analog movie ever made, just incredible. Multiple characters have already died but live on as a video signal. Pre-Hellraiser S&M horror and tech-flesh fusions. An optician named Barry Convex, everything here is great. The VR headset and the unwitting assassin plot tie this pretty closely to eXistenZ.
It was a twitter post by director/star Kentucker Audley which first alerted me to the online nature of Sundance this year, both that he had a cool-sounding new movie, and that ordinary punters like myself could watch its premiere for a reasonable cost, so I felt I owed it to him to watch this… though at this point in the late afternoon, an overall Sundance skepticism had set in, and I’d lost my hopes that it would be great. Thankfully, it was great, or at least good enough to seem great after Mayday – a hundred times wackier than that movie, beautifully imaginative and very fun to watch.
A year-2035 dream auditor has to visit an offline old woman who still stores her dreams on analog tape, to calculate how much she owes in taxes based on the objects her subconscious summons – or how much her estate owes, since she passes away while he’s on the job. Her VHS dreams start bleeding into his own life, and are more pure than the auditor’s own dreams. This is because she knows that companies beam advertisements into dreams, and has developed a protective helmet as an ad-blocker.
The woman knows about the dream-ads because her son is in charge of the ad agency, and when he arrives after her death he determines that the auditor knows too much, and tries to burn him alive in mom’s pink house to destroy all evidence. Asleep in the flames, he bonds with a young dream-Bella on a small island, making this my second movie in a row about an island-bound dreamer needing to awaken to their dangerous real life. Scenes from earlier that felt randomly eccentric return as sense warnings. Despite his meaningless job working for the man, the auditor deserves happiness because he stops to save a pet turtle on his way out of the burning house.
Tyler Davis’s Vanity Fair review is good at noting what makes this movie special, while accidentally summarizing my own Sundance experience:
Like Ham On Rye, another recent fantastical low-budget film, Strawberry Mansion puts modern dread at the fore through a series of dynamic set pieces that reveal just how many obstacles are placed between us and our inner lives … The boundaries between our imagined lives and the ones we try to lead in the midst of never ending sales pitches has thinned to a sliver … It’s easy to mistake Strawberry Mansion for a simple parable about advertising and the federal government. But ultimately, it’s a strange film about art and its conditions … Increasingly, as we’re asked to look at more and more yet with less and less of our minds activated, all the watching becomes unbearable. Strawberry Mansion takes a wild swing at yanking its protagonist—and us—out of this predicament.