Tag Archives: Kei Fujiwara

CAPSULE: ID (2005)

Weirdest!

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Kimihiko Hasegawa, Kei Fujiwara

PLOT: A man awakens in a woods and wanders into an urban pig farm where he observes examples of human cruelty and perversion.

Still from Id (2005)
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: The confusing presentation and slapstick black comedy undercuts Id‘s serious spiritual themes. Id goes totally nutso at the end, even by its own loose standards of sanity, and the movie doesn’t hang together even by the forgiving parameters of its own weirdness.

COMMENTS: Id‘s confusing, fractured storyline may take more than one viewing to work out (and you’ll probably never be 100% satisfied). On the other hand, the movie seems to have a clear thematic purpose, though it’s developed in a sloppy fashion. The movie’s theme is stated up front and seems simple and noble: “Amida Buddha’s sacred vow is that all be granted salvation… not only the good and wise but even those most depraved by sin and lust will be shown compassion.” There is a complication, however; to take advantage of Amida Buddha’s offer, you must invoke his name. Beasts, being dumb and mute, can’t do this; and neither can our protagonist, a nameless and (initially) mute man we meet see waking up in a forest, listening to dueling voiceovers. This man grabs a harmonica and wanders onto a nearby urban pig farm where he observes absurd examples of “most depraved sin and lust.”

So far, so good; it seems like a clean enough setup for a story of sin and salvation, a meditation on the thin line between the human and the bestial. Of course, things get far more confused than that. Soon enough we are introduced to another, similarly lost, character, a raggedy detective searching for the “master of murder” who may be responsible for local serial killings. The pig farm and its nearby environs supply plenty of subplots, including three slapstick farmhands who jerk about the farm like Keystone Kops, a bullied nine-year-old boy (played by an adult), and a cult proselytizer who miraculously survived a family massacre. The already odd vignettes are further peppered with hallucinations, including some very crude stop-motion animation and shots of a papier-mache pig’s head spouting blood. Somehow, by the end we descend into a hellish slaughterhouse hung with bloody plastic sheeting for a long and gory confrontation with a transformed “humanhog.” And what are we to make of the frequent references to the “id well,” an idea seemingly taken from Freudian psychology that has only a strained connection to the film’s Buddhist ideology?

The idea that “those most depraved by sin and lust will be shown compassion” provides an excuse to show graphic examples of sin and lust, which test our capacity for compassion to its fullest. Among other immoral sights, we get an entire chapter devoted to Peeping Toms (who pull on metallic springs in the place of genitals) and a “comic” transvestite rape. The absurdist elements of the salacious scenes seem to work against the movie’s main theme, however; if Amida Buddha forgives the worst human transgressions, then why the need to make them funny? If he would forgive real Peeping Toms, why does Id feel compelled to make their crimes look silly? It’s symptomatic of the movie’s unsure tone. Id won’t commit to being a black comedy, a serious psycho-spiritual rumination, or a surreal nightmare, but keeps changing its strategy every few minutes, hoping something will stick. It’s a shame, because there seems to be the seed of a promising idea buried somewhere in this film, if only the director could decide how to cultivate it.

Writer/director Kei Fujiwara collaborated with on 1989’s Certified Weird classic Tetsuo: The Iron Man, where she played the female lead as well as providing the costume design and assisting in the camerawork. Id is her second feature in a proposed trilogy; the first, Organ, appeared in 1996, so the third installment is due about now, if it’s ever going to be made.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“A lot of viewers might not even finish it, let alone desire a second (or third) serving of the outrageously weird, spicy dish.”–Dejan Ognjanovic, Temple of Ghoul (DVD)

(This movie was nominated for review by “Radu.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

91. TETSUO: THE IRON MAN (1989)

“One of the most memorable screenings in the early years of Midnight Madness, Tetsuo so stunned the attending crowd that few noticed the print had no subtitles.”–Toronto International Film Festival

RecommendedWeirdest!

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , Shinya Tsukamoto,

PLOT: A man who collects scrap metal (identified as “fetishist” in the credits) slices his leg open with a knife and inserts a metal pipe beside his thigh bone, then runs into the street when he notices maggots in the wound, where he is struck by a car driven by a salaryman and his girlfriend.  The salaryman leaves the scene of the accident, and later finds a piece of sharp metal growing out of his cheek; as the days go by, his entire body begins to transform into a machine.  Many hallucinations later, the fetishist, still-alive and also half made of metal, returns to do battle with the now almost completely mechanized salaryman.

Still from Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)

BACKGROUND:

  • Director Shinya Tsukamoto honed his craft working in an experimental underground theater group, and Tetsuo originated as a play.
  • Tsukamoto is also an actor.  Besides playing the fetishist in Tetsuo, the IMDB lists thirty-six acting credits for him, including a major role in Takashi Miike‘s Ichi the Killer (2001).
  • The Iron Man was followed by two sequels: the less surreal, more action-oriented reworking Tetsuo II: Body Hammer (1992) and the just-released-on-DVD as of this writing Tetsuo: The Bullet Man (2009).
  • While Tetsuo has become a cult favorite over the years, it was not well-received on release, perhaps simply because it was too strange and underfunded to find its way onto many screens.  It won only one major award, “Best Film” at the Fantafestival in Rome (an event that has since disappeared).

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Shinya Tsukamoto must have spent hours creating elaborate landscapes full of battered scrap metal and wire, and painstakingly animating sequences where the fetishist zooms through urban streets at the speed of amphetamine-enhanced thought; but no matter how much work the director put in to any effect, it’s the simple picture of the salaryman sporting an unbalanced, rotating drill bit penis that no one can forget.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRDTetsuo is a carefully patterned, but effectively nonsensical, barrage


Short clip from Tetsuo: The Iron Man

of images of industrial dehumanization.  Men and women extrude cables, wires, gears, drills, threaded pipes, and miscellaneous machine parts from their skin, in glorious showers of blood.  Nightmare visions in grainy black and white flow at a breakneck pace to the pulsing beat of an industrial soundtrack.  It’s a square plug of a movie forced into the round connector of our cinematic expectations, and it emits dangerous sparks.

COMMENTS: Attempts to describe Tetsuo: The Iron Man to the uninitiated run up against a Continue reading 91. TETSUO: THE IRON MAN (1989)