BORDERLINE WEIRD: 964 PINOCCHIO (1991)

DIRECTED BY: Shozin Fukui

FEATURING: Haji Suzuki, Onn-Chan

PLOT: Pinocchio 964, a malfunctioning sex slave, is thrown out onto the street by his

Still from 964 Pinocchio (1991)

dissatisfied owner.  Without speech or memory he stumbles, literally, into the lap of an amnesiac woman, Himiko, who takes him home to care for him.  As her memory returns she undergoes a cruel personality change, returning Pinocchio to the mysterious corporation that made him.

WHY IT’S ON THE BORDERLINE: 964 Pinocchio is certainly weird, but doesn’t hang together as a totally coherent film.  However, days later, I was still thinking about it.  I don’t think that the film is a satisfying blend of the weird and the entertaining; in fact some sequences are seriously hard work.  Pinocchio deserves a second look in the future though, because odd and confusing as it was, distasteful as some scenes were, that sad sex slave worms his way into your mind.

COMMENTS: 964 Pinocchio is quite clearly a low budget film, but it is inventive, imaginative and uncompromising.  Many scenes are filmed guerrilla style, and I found myself looking sympathetically at the bemused bystanders during some of the full-on craziness.  A film which includes a three minute vomiting scene will not be to everyone’s taste; and it’s not as if that’s an uncharacteristic sequence.  964 Pinocchio is a wet, messy film throughout.  Pinocchio emits a flood of custardy mess from some unspecified point on his head; Himiko regurgitates mounds of porridgy vomit before rolling in it and re-ingesting it; the head of the company which made Pinocchio continually eats cherries from a bowl of spittle.  The film really screams in your face and refuses to apologize for any of its bizarre imagery.

The film introduces us to one of the two central characters, Pinocchio, as he flounders unwillingly in the middle of a M-F-F threesome.  It’s an unerotic sex scene intercut with shots of a man in vague surgical garb, a huge drill bit entering someone’s head, and a voice informing someone that their memory will not return.  The opening scene really lays the film’s cards on the table; it’s just going to get more confusing from here.  Thrown onto the streets for failing to perform sexually, Pinocchio stumbles into Himiko.  She’s sitting, looking through binoculars, and altering a map she’s making so that amnesiacs can find their way around the city.  She firmly rebuffs a crude sexual advance from a passerby but calmly adopts the lanky, dirty ex sex slave when he literally falls on her.  She takes him home, washes him, clothes him, feeds him, and attempts to teach him to speak.  It’s while washing him that she finds a tattoo on his back reading “Pinocchio,” which she assumes is his name.  Pinocchio and Himiko get to know each other and go out for dinner; in an amusing sequence they perform a pedestrian ram-raid on a supermarket, clearly disconcerting the staff.  Pinocchio’s memory and voice begin to return, and Himiko experiences brief flashbacks showing her as a nurse wielding a huge syringe.  Pinocchio has a fit of some sort and begins to spew a thick, yellow fluid from his head which solidifies, gluing him to the floor like a cut price version of da Vinci’s Vitruvian man.  Himiko also goes off the rails as her memory returns.  She experiences the aforementioned vomiting episode in a railway station underpass, calling to mind Isabelle Adjani’s experience in Possession.  Onn-Chan is certainly a gutsy performer, without an ounce of vanity.  Her wild prancing along rail station platforms and rolling in mounds of porridge aren’t performed on closed sets; she’s frequently surrounded by groups of startled, bemused commuters.  If she’s not making a public exhibition of herself then she’s generally shot with a wide angle lens practically up her nose.  Himiko unglues Pinocchio by apparently tossing a bucket of acid over him, tricks him into allowing himself to be shackled by her and drags him through the streets.  Pinocchio is bemused by her change of character, as is the viewer.  Did she work for the organization which makes the sex slaves?  Possibly; because she offers to help the cherry-chewing head honcho find his missing model.  The film climaxes with a lengthy sequence showing Pinocchio dragging a huge four sided pyramid through the streets.  White faced, bloody mouthed, with his little spike of hair discolored to a yellowy green, he looks like a Japanese Joker.  After an age he meets the team from the organization that has been searching for him and kills them.  The final meeting with Himiko is a literal face off.  Himiko tears off her own face and reveals a huge stone head which Pinocchio rips from her shoulders and places over his own head.

964 Pinocchio is certainly confusing, messy and distasteful in parts, but I didn’t hate it.  I couldn’t say, hand on heart, that I enjoyed it all, but there were aspects that charmed me.  The two central actors impressed me with their courage and commitment.  The sequence showing Himiko using a piece of jerky and a wooden spoon to try and teach Pinocchio his name amused me no end, as did the meal on the hoof at the supermarket.  This isn’t a film that I would watch often for entertainment, but I’m glad it’s there and I’m glad I’ve seen it.  Unlike many more beautiful, coherent, entertaining films, 964 Pinocchio has made me puzzle over it.  Why does the title screen read√964?  Pinocchio’s unhappy owner has a scantily clad female companion; she appears to have a name tattooed on her body.  Is she also a sex slave?  The chief of the organization searching for the missing Pinocchio says these slaves are human beings, and there is no indication at any time that the central character is a cyborg/android/robot of any kind.  Pinocchio is clearly not a regular human though, so what is he?  This is a film that raises a lot of questions and offers very few answers, and I ended up liking it despite myself.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…a[n] experiential voyage into the crazed and surreal… not for everyone – in fact it’s for a select few. If you aren’t a fan of extreme horror, gruesome imagery, constant screaming, jagged camera work and intense emotions, this movie is probably not for you.”–“SAFM,” Cyberpunkreview.com (contemporaneous)

4 thoughts on “BORDERLINE WEIRD: 964 PINOCCHIO (1991)”

  1. RE: “Himiko regurgitates mounds of porridgy vomit before rolling in it and re-ingesting it.”

    Well yes, what else would he do with it?

  2. I find it’s often the films with such ambiguity that I have a hundred questions after viewing are the ones that get stuck in my head and sort of cajole me into liking them. This sounds too icky for me (I’m pretty squeamish) but at the same time I’m really curious. Excellent review!

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