Premiering at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival out of competition and for distributors only, Asmik Ace distributed the press release--reprinted by ScreenDaily and Bloody Disguisting--and Todd Brown at Twitch enlightens us to Tsukamoto's The Bullet Man bait and switch.
In a weird way, it is an oddly fitting release for Tetsuo Project to come out now. Body Horror has been prominent as of late--despite it being a term David Cronenberg objects to--when considering the forced cult popularity for recent "splatter horror" films with a sci-fi bent like The Machine Girl and Tokyo Gore Police.
What Tsukamoto made in 1989 was a visual response to his fascination with the character of Tetsuo from Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira, but also as Tom Mes points out, "[t]he culmination of a decade's worth of short filmmaking and the crowning achievement on the activities of a private, experimental theatre group, Tetsuo had all the characteristics of unbridled zeal and amateur enthusiasm, and all the signs of true filmmaking talent."
The two films proceed Tsukamoto's take on physicality that would later emerge in Tokyo Fist; a display of the raw urge to physically dominate that would make even the most vigorious victim of body dysmorphic disorder consider putting a halt on their practices. Instead, much like Videodrone, the body is a means for modification and trascsending the tired old flesh. The first Tetsuo is a testament to forced evolution into something that is purely sexual--the infamous "drill dick" that Man (Tomorowo Taguchi) inadvertly uses to kill his girlfriend. Its' seque, four years later,l involves father (again, Taguchi) to forcefully and painfully transcend his office drone banality to become a killing machine whose familial piety inadvertanly destroys an entire city to keep him "safe."
Maybe this is why, in the press release, "Tsukamoto wasn’t sure the concept would translate to America, and he decided to take the story back to Tokyo instead." Apparently Quentin Tarantino had asked for a third film, tentatively titled Tetsuo America, which seems to have endless possibilities to remark upon: American gun culture, American modification culture, America in general! A huge part of Tetsuo II comes from the main character's transformation from having one gun in his chest to several to finaly becoming a rolling tank of weapons as he rumbles through the street protecting his family.
Why Tarantino and Tsukamoto parted ways is anyone's guess, aside from pointless conjecture to be spurned by Miramax fumbling the releases of Nightmare Detective so badly that, according to fun stories, Tsukamoto almost quit directing and shouted he would never work with an American company again. Then again, he cast Eric Bossick as an unknown role and the film is entirely in English.
Most reactions won't come until the festival, when writers and bloggers interested in Tsukamoto's return to cyber-punk form actively look out for the film. But this seems like a director pandering his best known and most lauded series back out in an attempt to cash back in, or maybe it came entirely from Asmik Ace who want to take a "Christopher Nolan" approach to financing Tsukamoto's work (i.e. produce one hit, then do whatever indie film you want.)
There's so much that can go right for a third--and hopefully final--notice in Tetsuo, especially with an American live-actiona adapation of Akira on the horizon. But there's also the mixing of stop-motion animation, cheesy computer graphics and art-student tenacity that the old Tsukamoto put into this cyber-punk thriller that made it unwatchable unless you were into watching someone's cheaply made stance on technology.
EDIT: I guess to explain the hesitation furher, it'd help to include the Synopsis from the Press Release:
The life of an ordinary American businessman living in Tokyo with his Japanese wife and a three-year-old son, changes forever after a sudden tragedy. His extreme anger turns his body metallic to fight at a ultrafast speed against a mysterious evil in the dynamically-changing city of Tokyo.
For those of you keeping track at home, this effectively combines the plot of 8-Man After, Tetsuo II and countless anime about fighting with real ultimate power and friendship. It also could say countless things about the fact that this is an American who transforms into a super-fast metal monster once his son is stolen by a Japanese male. But maybe that's just us.