Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tetsuo - The Bullet Man (Shinya Tsukamoto, 2009)

The Bullet Man.

Having read only extremely negative reviews of Shinya Tsukamoto's newest part of the Tetsuo series, I felt like I had to make a decision before watching it. Either to watch it with my expectations set really low, prepared to be disappointed by something that isn't what Tetsuo - The Iron Man (1989) was. Or, I could go in with my expectations through the roof, preparing to see something great in its own right, to see where Tsukamoto takes it and see the films own qualities. Since one of the problems I've had with reviews the last few years is that "everyone" only seems to be looking for a repeat. Especially when it comes to directors like Tsukamoto and Takashi Miike, who have a reputation of making a certain kind of films, even if they are in minority in their bodies of work, overshadowing everything else they have done. Because of that I chose the latter and Tsukamoto did not let me down.

The Bullet Man plays like a culmination of all of Tsukamoto's films so far. It is almost, but not quite, like a remake of Tetsuo, made in crystal clear high definition and in english. I can see parallells to other films of Tsukamoto's that probably weren't expected. The dreams of the main characters' wife coming true and the shots of large cold buildings of Tokyo reminded more of Nightmare Detective (2006) than anything from earlier in Tsukamoto's career. The origin of the bullet man also is like a fusion between later films like A Snake of June (2002) and Vital (2004) and the first Tetsuo. Through love in a kind of afterlife the bullet man is born, and through provoked emotion his transformation takes place creating something with the power to destroy the world. The city is still there as a cold and lonely place, but it no longer seem like the main reason for the characters' decline into loneliness and rage.

As a film, it's not perfect. The story in all its simplicity is still hard to grasp sometimes. The motives of The Guy, the catalyst behind the bullet man's transformation, is somewhat unclear, unless he's only there as a "director" character, making the whole thing spin. After all he is played by Tsukamoto himself, just like in the original. Having it made in english seems somewhat unnecessary because even if it were to attract a foreign audience, the rest of the film is hardly mainstream. The dialogue is also delivered in a stilted manner making the feeling of cold people stronger than that of a society built out of steel and concrete. As I'm a non-japanese speaker, having the english dialogue spoken like this actually strengthened the atmosphere of the film and did not work as a distraction. Had it been in Japanese it probably would have been harder to pick up on. The frantic camerawork and editing is still there, making it hard to see what is actually going on sometimes, but together with the loud industrial soundtrack by Chu Ishikawa it works so well that the film becomes more of an experiance than a film, and I believe that that is exactly what a Tetsuo film should be like.

I wouldn't call this new Tetsuo cyberpunk, it's a bit too polished to be punk, just like I disagree with some calling Sogo Ishii's Electric Dragon 80.000V (2001) cyberpunk, even though they are somewhat alike. But if you draw a line from Tetsuo - The Iron Man through Tetsuo II - Body Hammer (1992) and Ishii's Electric Dragon and then this new film, The Bullet Man makes perfect sense being the way it is, just like it does if you take a look at Tsukamoto's recent filmography and don't expect The Bullet Man to be just a remake of The Iron Man.

This is a new Tetsuo, from a new Tsukamoto, perhaps for an entirely new audience.