Ever wake up and think: "Today I'd like to have my inner ears tied to a seven-story turbine as it vomits the inhabitants of an insane asylum, while my eyes are violated watching a conveyor belt sexually molest itself?"
Ever feel that way? Yes? Great! Perhaps you'd enjoy TETSUO: THE BULLET MAN.
Shinya Tsukamoto's third installment in the TETSUO empire deals with much of what every other TETSUO film deals with: the human as machine. Typically, this theme plays out with a man turning into a twisted and monstrous metal "thing" after being traumatized by an event. In THE BULLET MAN the trauma comes from a father's son being run over with a car multiple times. This, of course, was predicted in a dream by the father's anxiety-ridden Japanese wife, who then verbally assaults her husband (an American named Anthony living in Japan) into finding their dead son's murderer and killing him. Ultimately anger becomes Anthony's worst enemy, for when he finds himself consumed by rage, he also finds himself consumed by his own mechanistic iron anti-flesh. Major power-violence ensues.
I have a pretty good feeling some of you will hate this film, find it to be a complete failure, and wish Shinya Tsukamoto had never even thought about making this third installment in the TETSUO canon. THE BULLET MAN was not filmed like the first film (this time around we're in a very digitized world). THE BULLET MAN is not in Japanese (it's in English). And, THE BULLET MAN has some of the most alienating handlings of dialogue this side of screenwriting school. (Think: "I must avenge my son's death" or something of that nature). But! These seeming limitations are in fact effects that work for THE BULLET MAN and not against him/it.
It's hard not to assume Tsukamoto knew what he was doing when he made The Bullet Man's face first turn iron. He must have known that face paint looks cheap. Tsukamoto must have also known that hyper-awkward script deliveries would make the audience uncomfortable, that not knowing if the actors were actually talented would make all of us squirm in our seats a little. Not to mention the volume of the film, which alone, made people in the audience chuckle when it was over. I mean, THE BULLET MAN is one loud ass film! Like, fingers-in-your-ears loud. But, I'm a sucker for intent, so if I feel like the director (author, painter, whomever) knew full well that certain elements would be "off," than I just try to run with it.
For instance, let me take you back to the early 1990s. Remember when Nine Inch Nails used to make MTV videos people cared about? Remember how industrial music, that clusterfunk of Anglo-glitch, seemed revolutionary and decadent? Shinya Tsukamoto's THE BULLET MAN certainly does, and uses all the effects that made the danceable genre seem worthy of our time, going as far as actually working with NIN on the soundtrack. So much was the genre and all its trappings a point of motivation for Tsukamoto, that when interviewed at this year's Tribeca Film Festival, Tsukamoto said, "The storyline is important but more important (are) the sound effects. I wanted to make it seem as if the audience were going to a live concert." THE BULLET MAN certainly does feel like a rock video at times, especially when Anthony writhes in pain in a black box with water spraying all over him to a pulsing industrial beat. I mean...really? Switch him out with a breast-enhanced groupie and you'd be in hair metal-ville.
So, if you're planning on seeing Tsukamoto's latest, and I think you should, if only for posterity's sake, remember this: TETSUO: THE BULLET MAN is not TETSUO: THE IRON MAN. Nor is it TETSUO II: BODY HAMMER. In fact, none of these films are each other, but are rather separate entities, pieces of fiction that can (and possibly should) be taken at face value, on their own, distinct from their predecessors. Personally, I feel that keeping that idea in mind, you'll be sure to have a positive, if deafening, experience watching the film.