Like David Lynch's Eraserhead, which it resembles both visually and in its emotive impact, Tetsuo is a disjointed, dreamlike, and often deeply disturbing vision. The movie is filmed in grainy black and white, and its resulting look somehow heightens the tale's disconnect from reality. This disjunction, in turn, both allows the film's frenzy of disgusting, loathsome images to inhabit their own strange world, which is poignantly manifested to the viewer, and magnifies the sense of surreal repulsion these images arouse.
Tetsuo's revolting and terrific elements are frequently enhanced by incongruous comic moments, such as when the man finds himself crouching naked on the ground while a woman rapes him with what appears to be a penis made from a huge tube, which is made to wriggle obscenely by means of stop motion animation. The scene is strangely funny, but such comic elements make the movie more disturbing than it would have been had they been absent. Even scenes that are not particularly horrific, as that in which the man's penis is transformed into an enormous furniture destroying drill after he has watched his girlfriend fellate a sausage to the accompaniment of the sound of scraping metal, contribute to the overall strangeness and unreality of the film and so ultimately do assist in the production of horror and revulsion.
Tsukamoto's Tetsuo is one of only a handful of movies dominated by the emotion of repulsion and is interesting for this fact alone. It is a strange film, but its strangeness succeeds in eliciting a powerful emotive reaction from the viewer. Tsukamoto might not have created a masterpiece, but he has produced something well worth seeing.
Review by Keith Allen
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