Thursday, March 27, 2008

Take ir or leave it - Tetsuo The Iron Man

For some time, Mark has been insisting that I should watch "Tetsuo The Iron Man", and I finally found it for a very reasonable price in Play. I ordered it, and last night, we sat together to watch it.

Short little masterpiece, I would say (to start with). Think unglamorous, monochrome (entirely B&W), grainy and dark. And gory.

Subjacent theme is a sort of post-industrial grudge. A man obsessed with metal fetishism, is ran over by a car and dies (at least, I think he died). The car is driven by this salary man and his woman who, instead of helping, start having sex in front of the (dead or alive by then) body. They dump the body into a ravine and he suffers a mutation. Or to put into alchemical terms, a transmutation. At the same time, the salary man starts to hallucinate and sees himself changing in real life, culminating in his metamorphosis into a pile of retorted metal - or something to that effect. This realisation of the change and how to cope with it is memorable, but I won't give details here.

Soundtrack is brilliant and the film edition is amazing, I must say. From the metamorphose onwards, the story enters a frantic pace and things start to gradually make sense.

Visually, it reminded me of H. R. Giger's artwork and some 1920's expressionist films (makeup, facial expressions, body movements etc). I recall Wegener's "The Golem" for the dark atmosphere and the inhuman character of the protagonist(s), albeit in a totally distinct scenario of course. Also, "Metropolis" may come to mind for the post-industrial, man-machine relationship theme. The black and white footage and lack of dialogue lends it an air of silent movie almost, which greatly contributes to such associations, I guess.

I think it's brilliant because the story hardly needs any words to be understood (that is a merit, in my point-of-view), except perhaps with the flashback scene with the doctor, and the last scenes where the two main characters talk to each other and one of them says something like:

"Together we can rust this world. With our love we can destroy this world together", while entering a post-apocalyptical Tokyo scenario, empty streets, abandoned buildings and no other human beings, dead or alive, to be seen.

Homosexual metaphor. Metal mutation epidemics. Technopop hallucination. Cyberpunk fable. I think it's all these things together perhaps. And perhaps none of them at all.

Who is Tetsuo in the end? None of the two male characters is called Tetsuo. But the being resulting of the salary man and the fetishist's fusion. Almost like a homunculus born from a twisted alchemical process, a perverted "conjunctio". That is Tetsuo, or at least that's how I see it.

The film is directed, produced and starred by Shinya Tsukamoto - as the fetishist guy. We recently saw him as the main character in Takeshi Shimizu's "Marebito", which, truth to be told, failed to impress (not him as an actor, but the story itself). In the other hand, he directed a little gem of a film called "Vital", with Tadanobu Asano, one of my favourite J-Horror films (although I personally don't see it as "horror" at all). All that makes me think he must be no short of a genius.

(Thanks Mark, for introducing me to Tetsuo. Owe you one!)

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posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 8:46 AM 4 comments

Sunday, August 27, 2006


Sometimes I think if I am not a bit weird or what. I have two antagonic sides co-existing inside me.

One is the "I-adore-all-things-cute" side or, most specifically, kawaii. The other is the complimentary "But-I-love-horror-flicks" one. Meaning that people can listen to me digressing and going all "aawwww" at the latest Hello Kitty gimmick and - ten minutes later, literally - going all excited about that new JHorror release where hairy ghosts come out of toasters, for example.

Those two things live inside me like an old Stevie Wonder's song: "in perfect harmony". Although they may seem a bit incompatible to the world around me. That is why I so much identify with Momotchi and Tama-chan, from my beloved Keroro Gunso series. They are characters of "extremes". Taste-wise and pesonality-wise too. I have a bit of their mood swings as well (Mark knows well about it!). I can be in cute-mode now, and the next moment become a venomous harpy! Ha ha! Of course I am exaggerating a bit here, but yeah, you can picture it...

Cute stuff I love:

- Sanrio characters, especially (and above all) Hello Kitty;
- Pucca;
- Morning Glory's Babu and Blue Bear;
- San-X stuff:
- Cute maneki neko;
- Nici stuff;
- Cute Asian makeup brands such as Majolica Majorca, Anna Sui and Lavshuca.

However, there are "cute" stuff I seriously dislike because they look tacky, passé and utterly mind-numbing, such as:

- Some kinds of Teddy Bears (eg, Care Bears and several greeting card ones);
- Barbie dolls;
- Bratz;
- Teletubbies;
- Anne Geddes baby pics;
- Ads where dogs and little babies talk with silly adult voices (eg, Andrex toilet rolls where a lovely and playful Labrador puppy sounds like an old drag-queen, Pampers etc...)

As for the Horror, I must say I am quite proud of my collection of DVDs! Mostly Asian films, because their approach of horror is not only "cleaner" but also deeper, and mostly impressive. Stylish even. And, the Horror I dislike is stuff like Re-animator and Infection for example. They are just plain gross. Period.

Notes: There is no such a thing as a JHorror film where a hairy ghost comes out of a toaster, of course! They normally come out of TVs and bathroom sinks, but not toasters - at least for now; one can only hope...

Also, I recognise this whole cute thing is a bit subjective. I know that, for some people, Hello Kitty may look abominable and Care Bears adorable, for example. Or drag-queenish labrador puppies may sound like the epitome of cuteness... Who am I to say? Anyway, it's all too personal in the end, no?

Finally, the above picture with Momotchi and Tama-chan I got in the super-cool Keroro's Korean website! Worth checking (and bookmarking) it!

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posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 1:24 AM 3 comments

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Last night we watched a very good Korean horror film, "Acacia", directed by Ki-Hyung Park, same director of "Whispering Corridors". It is a fantastic film, with beautiful photography and music. A little work of art.

I don't see it as much as a "horror" film, but rather as a drama. It tells the story of a childless couple longing for a baby. Since the baby doesn't come, they decide to adopt. The Father is a ob-gyn consultant. The Mom works as an art critic, exhibition judge or something like that.

They visit an orphanage and she sees the drawings of the kids, and is intrigued by a drawing that looks very much like Edvard Munch's "The Scream". As an art critic, she is fascinated by that and asks to meet the kid who drew it, an adorable 6 year-old, called Jim-seong. She decides to adopt him and the kid goes to live with his new parents.

In the end, she ends up getting pregnant and having another baby boy. Jim-seong starts to feel rejected and becomes very troubled and somber, which is quite understandable. He is jealous, his parents seem to have eyes for the new-born only, and do not seem to care very much about him. He then becomes attached to a dying acacia tree in the garden and claims that the tree is his "real Mother". At the same time he befriends his little neighboor, a lonely - and somehow precocious - 8 year-old girl, Min-ji.

But one day Jim-seong disappears and the family starts to live a nightmare of guilt and loss. More I must not tell, but the film grows increasingly sadder and a wee bit creepy as well. The images are beautiful though, everything looks like a dream, like a picture book. It is a deliberate tribute to Munch and his colours, and fantastic, dreamlike scenarios.

The acacia tree is an old symbol for innocence, purity and immortality. It is an evergreen. According to the Egyptian myth for example, Seth killed Osiris by locking him into a golden sarcophagus and setting it afloat on the Nile. The sarcophagus ended up in Byblos, and a beautiful acacia tree grew all around it, as if to protect the god's body. That acacia tree being so lush and fragrant, it was used to build a pillar for the King's palace, until Isis finally found it and broke it as to release her husband. Horus himself was born from inside an acacia tree, in one of the versions of the myth. Therefore, the acacia is associated to rebirth, immortality, and triumph over death - similar to the Phoenix. It is a key symbol in Freemasonry also. We would spend more than a week perhaps just to mention all myths and traditions where the acacia appears as a symbol of immortality, and rebirth.

In relation to the film though, its symbolism has been very well captured and treated, albeit with a modern twist and inserted into a family drama. Worth checking it out. It's a beautiful, melancholy piece of cinematography.

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posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 10:23 PM 0 comments

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Koji Suzuki part 2: a brief comment...

I am almost past the 1st half of "Loop". I was reading it last night, after writing about Koji Suzuki's work.

Actually, this book seems now rather like a sci-fi story than a horror one. Or a sci-fi-horror mixed altogether.

Right now, it is a bit like an episode of the "X Files" blended with "The Matrix". Some things are not what they seemed to be! I am a bit shaken myself!

Again, no more details on that. Go and read it by yourself kudasai!

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posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 11:44 AM 0 comments

Koji Suzuki's Books...

This scene is a classic. Taken from "Ringu" (aka "Ring"). Sadako coming out of the telly, crawling, hair on her face, bleeding nails, desperate, vengeful.

I love Koji Suzuki's books. The film (the original Japanese, of course) was very, very good, and I don't tire of watching it. From the Ringu trilogy (the films) my favourites are, with no doubt, "Ring" and "Ring 0".

As for the books, I am now reading the 3rd one: "Loop". The first two were "Ring", of course, and "Spiral". "Spiral" was quite good and you start to understand Sadako Yamamura's motivations and actually empathise with her. I did, at least. She is a fascinating character. She is very well portrayed in "Ring 0", by the way.

You see more of her in "Spiral" and there are some freaky scenes that can make your blood chill. But what I like about KS's style is the way he writes about things as a journalist would do, namely, very normal things (or apparently so). Yet suddenly you will start to feel the chill underlining every one of these normal, run-of-the mill situations, as if some time soon, blood would come out of the pages of your own book. That scene of Sadako's coming out of a TV set is quite similar to Koji's storytelling style. When reading "Ring", the book becomes your very own haunted TV set, and spectral Sadako will make her appearance pretty soon. So it seems to me. Is there anything creepier than that? I'm afraid not. The man is good. Real good.

"Ring" the film, by its turn, set a new standard for horror films: the dishevelled woman seeking for revenge. Dishevelled, hair on her face, wet, crawling, crackling almost, and coming out of some unexpected device or place (a well) or window, from a "little darkness" somewhere. As a broken puppet.

That image can be proudly put beside some other horror classics: Jack Nicholson's face in "The Shining"("Here's Johnny!"), the stabbing in the shower scene from "Psycho", Regan's rotating head in "The Exorcist" etc... And of course has influenced a countless number of other Asian horror scenes. And hilarious satyres, naturally.

As for "Loop", I am still sort of "getting acquainted" to the story and new characters. I hope Ando, Sadako and Ryuji will be there! I am feeling a bit lost without them. New characters (some interesting ones) are being introduced little by little. There's lots of science, human conflicts, emotions, diseases, conspirations etc, so far. But I cannot tell more, otherwise I may spoil it.

By the end of the year, a new book from KS will be released in the US and UK: "Birthday". I am waiting anxiously, needless to say.

(By the way I haven't yet read the manga based on KS's books. Hope to do so sometime soon though).

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posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 1:13 AM 0 comments

Saturday, May 13, 2006

New Asian Horror Films

I have decided to get some new Asian horror films for my collection! Scaaaary! And I got quite a bunch of them from both Play and Amazon:

- "The Ghost" (aka "Ryeong");
- "Whispering Corridors" (aka
"Yeogo Goedam");
"Memento Mori" (aka "Yeogo Goedam 2");
- "Wishing Stairs"
(aka "Yeogo Goedam 3");
- "Premonition" (aka
- "Ju-rei: the Uncanny" (aka
- "The Eye 2" (aka "Gin Gwai 2").

Yesterday we watched "The Ghost", which seemed like a hybrid of "Dark Water" and "The Grudge". Lots of creepy and crawly hairy women coming out of the water (sounds familiar, huh?). The plot is a bit confusing. A group of high-school bullies in a dark tale of friendship and revenge. Average, I would say, but nonetheless entertaining.

The rest of the DVD's did not arrive yet, but since they will arrive while Mark is in Malaysia, I will not have the chance to watch them until he's back. I really do love horror films to bits, but I could not possibly watch them by myself, alone at night...

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posted by Andrea Leite Marques at 2:24 PM 0 comments