TETSUO II: BODY HAMMER (1992)
Original Japanese B5 (7x10)
Director: Shinya Tsukamoto
Condition: Very good. Rolled.
NOTES: My first foray into cyberpunk… and throwing people a severe stink-eye when they won’t accept that you have your own opinion.
Like a lot of films to I’ll cover in these entries, I came into Body Hammer at far too early an age, at about twelve or thirteen to be exact. I was in the depths of a huge anime-phase, kicked off by the obvious (Akira), soon moving into hypergore (First of the North Star) and – unbeknownst to my parents -borderline hentai depravity (Urotsukodoji; bought for me by my father who had no idea how much hospital-crushing apocalyptic tentacle demon-sex featured).
However, Tetsuo II: Body Hammer was a random VHS pocket-money purchase based on the title and cover art alone. As a bit of a gun-nut kid, the thought of live-action-anime-men-who-turn-into-guns reeled me in with its cobalt-cool concept and soon I was in my darkened bedroom, not quite knowing what I was feeding into my small-screen VHS / TV combo-player.
83 mins later…
Slack jawed, I watched the films bleakly optimistic finale wrap up one of the few films that's provoked an honest-to-God physical gut reaction in my life (the others being Salo, Taxi Driver and Ninja Scroll’s bee-back man). Infanticide, shoulder-pad-cults, an editorial aesthetic that just won’t quit, sexual flashbacks that culminate in parenticide and bodies metamorphosing into weaponry… I was in love… and a little nauseous, if being frank.
A kid I used to be friends with introduced me to Tetsuo: The Iron Man soon after. Even then I could appreciate it was the more original piece, Body Hammer being a quasi-remake / companion piece. I adored the Eraserheady, Cronenbergian, Kafka-esque & Ballardian fusion of man and city in Tsukamoto’s 16mm first, but – without shame – the more polished edges of its 35mm relative sang to me more. Yes, I missed the stop-motion chase-sanity of the original but I was never overly impressed with its absurd sexualisation, drilling included.
Body Hammer, however, made use of a different type of intimacy that resonated with me. The theme of family…of failing to protect that family… the acceptance of not being able to avoid destiny… of the family unit destroying all in its way in order to survive…
Add this to the overwhelming viscera of distorting masculinity, top-grade visuals and ferocious sound design and you have one of the three greatest cyberpunk creations of all time.
Body Hammer lead me towards Tokyo Fist (which I still enjoy more than Raging Bull if being honest) and this is where my justified dismissal of those who won’t (or can’t) accept the opinions of others began.
“It cuts too quick. It’s too designed. There’s too much music.”
These were the whines. These were also the things I liked. The things I admired. The things I wished I knew how to emulate. That energy. That intensity. It’s what drew me to these films in the first place.
“You’re wrong. It’s not good, you know?”
Said friendship with said person ended soon after (helped along by the fact that said person’s head disappeared up said person’s ass soon thereafter).
If someone tells me I’m wrong for liking something?
Well – then I begin to change.
I begin to go through a metamorphosis.
And I… will absolutely fucking level a city to ensure my right to like is protected.
Bullet Ballet and A Snake of June cemented Tsukamoto as possibly the most inspirational international modern filmmaker for me. His DIY aesthetic is pure punk, as are his films in and of themselves. I put a direct Bullet Ballet reference into NEON if you can spot it (to be fair, it’s not difficult) and also spoke of Body Hammer in this fun top-5 sci-fi films article I wrote for the awesome Big Picture Film Club folks.
This Tetsuo II: Body Hammer poster is a beautiful B5 Chirashi I picked up online with a haul of others. Framed in my office, it’s sandwiched between A Snake of June and Three…Extremes though the latter is to be replaced with Tetsuo Megamix Chirashi I just purchased.
The beautifully busy artwork, anchored by Taniguchi’s scream, is a delight of chaos and colour, mixing the monochrome the vivid to startling effect. It’s a design that perfectly encapsulates the thrilling heart at the center the film itself: a furious cacophony of sound and image. An urban horror. A slice of post-modern cyberpunk perfection.
Yet, at its heart, it’s a film that ultimately does what good science-fiction does: holds up a mirror to those who are watching it and asks them to analyze themselves, their surroundings, their importance and their place in this world.
And what is important, ultimately, in the world of Body Hammer? Above all?
The nature of family: a construct that must constantly if it is to survive against the dehumanising progress of modernity as represented by the city… no matter what the cost.
Preferably armed with body-guns. Lots of body-guns.