March 31, 2006
Movie Review By: SFAM
Directed by: Shozin Fukui
Written by: Shozin Fukui
Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High
Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Medium
Key Cast Members:
Overview: Back in 1991, Shozin Fukui and crew created a no-budget movie that provided yet another view of Japanese Cyberpunk, one very different from the first Japanese Cyberpunk movie, Tetsuo. In 964 Pinocchio, we don’t get an external merging of man and machine parts – instead, we see the residue of extreme internal struggles – ones that overwhelm the protagonists. The images are very intense, and the pacing is erratic and fast paced. While this movie is uneven and haphazard in places, 964 Pinocchio is definitely a unique experience.
The Story: In this film, 964 Pinocchio (Hage Suzuki) is a strange type of cyborg – someone that used to be human but now has been transformed into a sex slave sold as product. Unfortunately, he no longer “functions” so his owners, a pair of sex-crazed, truly bizarre and sadistic chicks, have thrown him out in the street. Simultaneously, a nurse with a mysterious past, named Himiko (played by Onn Chan), has lost her memory, and she too has been evicted to the streets.
The two outcasts meet up and seem to have a strange attraction to one another. As 964 Pinocchio is essentially a child who seems to have little understanding or awareness of the external world, Himiko takes care of him. She takes him to her living quarters in the basement of a deserted building, and takes him on a food shopping spree where they steal and eat food in the grocery store. Himiko finds out that the corporation that produced Pinocchio is feverishly looking for him, as they are afraid that their illegal process for creating sex slaves will be made public.
Eventually, 964 Pinocchio starts to gain awareness, and begins to wonder what has happened to him. After becoming frightened and agitated, Himiko calms him down, and then they both realize they have found a “like” soul and then make love (apparently 964 Pinocchio is able to perform when his feelings are re-engaged). Unfortunately, this event unleashes unseen forces inside of 964 Pinocchio – forces that are past the point of control. In short, all hell breaks lose – 964 Pinocchio begins spouting bodily fluids of all kinds and Himiko is thrown against the wall, and finally begins experiencing her own version of the horror. From there, the movie becomes a experiential voyage into the crazed and surreal. The corporation is still after 964 Pinocchio, but they soon discover he is not the same as he once was.
Rubber’s Lover is the Prequel to 964 Pinocchio: Even though it was created 5 years later, Fukia’s Rubber’s Lover is a sequel of sorts to 964 Pinocchio. In this film, we never really understand the process for how Pinocchio was created. Rubber’s Lover gives us a view of this. While the cover for the DVD describes 964 Pinocchio as an android, he’s really not. In fact, he’s virtually all human (although there is a drill to the forehead scene that shows brain matter being removed). If Rubber’s Lover is any guide, he was created by intense sound waves and special chemicals. So at one point he “was” human, but now is “post-human.”
Note to Low Budget Japanese Cyberpunk Film Makers – Use B&W: Because of the low to no budget nature of 964 Pinocchio, the FX are not top quality. While they probably worked better prior to the CG world that we have today, similar to Videodrome, they look very dated in places now. This takes away from the impact of the movie to the point that it just doesn’t really work now unless you put it on a big screen and really crank up the sound. In comparing Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo (a B&W movie) to Tetsuo II: Bodyhammer (a color movie) and Fukui’s Rubber’s Lover (a B&W movie) to 964 Pinocchio, it’s clear that the mood, visuals and ambiance required for Japanese Cyberpunk is FAR better provided by B&W over color. In addition to both Tetsuo and Rubber’s Lover being better movies, they are both FAR more immersive. The low-budget B&W effects don’t detract from the mood, whereas in comparison the color effects look very fake. As an added benefit, shooting in B&W gives the film maker the a critical tool for cyberpunk mood setting: shadows. The use of shadows in a B&W film serve to create a dark, noir feeling which automatically serves up a non-normal mood.
If You Have Vomit Fetish, 964 Pinocchio is For You! Fukui CLEARLY has a vomit fetish, and decides to share it with us in 964 Pinocchio. We’re not talking a wee bit’O vomit coming out - we’re talkin GALLONS worth! Himiko in particular vomits, wipes it on herself, wallows in it, and then eats it all back up! Yummy!
The Bottom Line: 964 Pinocchio is not polished fare, but it does etch out a place in the history of cyberpunk. The story is rather basic, and is really beside the point (many are left confused at the ending – page 2 gives a spoiler understanding if interested). The purpose is to create an immersive mood that details what happens when a dominant power emerges and exceeds human physical capacities. 964 Pinocchio is not for everyone – in fact it’s for a select few. If you aren’t a fan of extreme horror, gruesome imagery, constant screaming, jagged camera work and intense emotions, this movie is probably not for you. If you just want to see a Fukui film, you’re probably better off picking Rubber’s Lover. But if you want an instance of Japanese Cyberpunk in color – the first one in fact – 964 Pinocchio merits a watch.