Shinya Tsukamoto's Tetsuo: The Iron Man is a "medium sized monster" production. So says a title card in the slow credit scrawl for what has come to be thought of as the ultimate "industrial" film. The "medium sized monster" could refer to just about anything: a man (the medium sized Godzilla), the film itself (a brisk 67 minutes), or the country of Japan. Or it could just be some snide joke. But I think it hints at something more, something inherent to the film and to Japanese culture at large. It is the regimented industrialization of Japanese commerce and culture that is monstrous in Tetsuo. It is the bleak skyline and the hawsers and conduits and telephone wires that blanket the country like spider webs. It is the steady pulse of machine rhythm that is slowly, but surely, replacing the steady heartbeat of nature. It is the repulsion and the attraction of industrial life.
Tetsuo begins with a metal fetishist (director Tsukamoto) cutting open his thigh and inserting a cable into the gaping wound. The fetishist is then promptly run over by an office worker (Tomorowo Taguchi) heading home for the day. The next morning, the office finds several metal whiskers growing from his cheek. Soon his entire body is wrapped in a metal flesh and it draws him towards an apocalyptic showdown with the metal fetishist, who is now, like the office worker, a giant ambulatory pile of rusted metal.
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