February 14, 2012

Welt am Draht (World on a Wire)

Movie Review By: Mr. Roboto

Year: 1973

Directed by: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Written by: Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Fritz Müller-Scherz, and Daniel F. Galouye (based on his novel “Simulacron-3″)

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Low

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

Key Cast Members:

  • Fred Stiller: Klaus Löwitsch
  • Professor Henry Vollmer: Adrian Hoven
  • Günther Lause: Ivan Desny
  • Herbert Siskins: Karl Heinz Vosgerau
  • Eva Vollmer: Mascha Rabben
  • Gloria Fromm: Barbara Valentin
  • Franz Hahn: Wolfgang Schenck
  • Fritz Walfang: Günter Lamprecht
  • Rating: 9 out of 10

    Going Downstairs (Welt am Draht)

    In Welt am Draht (World on a Wire), going into a simulation is referred to as “going downstairs” while coming out is “going upstairs.”

    Overview: You think you might have seen every VR-based movie, or know what to expect after watching The Matrix or Lawnmower Man for the thousandth time. Then someone points you to some rare foreign TV miniseries, and suddenly… WHOA! The Matrix doesn’t seem so original anymore, at least in terms of concept.

    Transmit ACK signal to “virtual reality 91″ for mentioning this one (just needed some time to research and download). World on a Wire is a two-part TV movie originally called Welt am Draht when it first premiered in West Germany. Since then, other VR movies short and long have come and gone. While still available via file-sharing and torrent, a recently restored version has been appearing at film festivals world wide and a Blu-Ray version is set to drop this month.

    The Story: At The Institute for Kybernetik und Zukunftsforschung (Institute for Cybernetics and Future Sciences), or IKZ, Professor Henry Vollmer has created a simulated world containing some 8,000 “identity units”; Virtual humans not knowing that they are living in a simulation, except for the “contact unit” named Einstein who is needed to keep the simulation running. Vollmer tries to tell security chief Lause about a discovery regarding the simulation that he wants to keep secret “Because it would mean the end of this world.” Vollmer dies shortly after and Stiller takes over as the project’s technical director. At a party, Lause wants to tell Stiller what Vollmer had told him, but while Stiller is momentarily distracted Lause vanishes, and every one else suddenly has no memory of him, including Lause’s niece, Eva Vollmer. When one of the identity units tries to commit suicide it is deleted, prompting Stiller to “enter” the simulation to contact Einstein to find out why the unit tried to kill itself. When they meet again, Einstein is in Walfang’s body where he explains how he wants to be human… and how “reality” as Stiller knows it isn’t.

     

    German Engineering. So the Simulacron computer system isn’t exactly 21st centruy, bleeding edge technology. This is a 1970’s era movie after all. So there’s no fancy gun-fu shootouts with CGI enhanced slow-motion effects, rotoscoped armor to guard against laser-edged Frisbees, or pixelated sex between Unix GUI daemons.

    But Welt am Draht isn’t about fancy high tech special effects. It’s about one man’s reaction when he discovers the truth about reality… his reality, as he perceives it. We watch Stiller’s struggle to keep his sanity in a world that seems to be designed for the purpose of destroying him. A Kafkaesque nightmare encoded in silicon, and his attempt to escape it. And if he does escape, has he really escaped… or just entered a new level of the nightmare?

    Vollmer’s Death

    What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror. Then we shall see face to face.

    Mirror’s edge. The main effect of the movie, especially in part one, is a shot of an image in a mirror or similar reflective surface. This gives an extra disorienting feeling as we ponder if reality really is reality, and how do they manage to get all those mirror-shots without the film crew appearing in the reflections. Low tech, highly effective.

    But unless you can speak German well enough, you might miss some of the mirror-shots while trying to read the subtitles. That’s the only thing keeping this from being a perfect 10. Then again, subtitles probably would be better than dubbing that comes out as “all your wiener schnitzel are belong to us.”

    Interface Terminal (Welt am Draht)

    Is it live? Or is it simulated?

    Conclusion: From the country that gave the world cruise and ballistic missiles, Fahrvergnügen, and Kraftwerk, Germany shows that they can come up with some inventive… and scary… technology. Welt am Draht is one of those rare pre-cyberpunk cyberpunk movies that needs to be seen to be believed. Especially when more recent films have aped the idea of VR with high-end graphic trickery, this one is enough proof that high-end does not mean high-quality.

    This post has been filed under AI (no body), Made for TV, Proto-Cyberpunk Media, Man-machine Interface, 9 Star Movies, Surreal Cyberpunk Movies, VR Movies, Cyberpunk movies from before 1980 by Mr. Roboto.

    Movie Review By: Mr. Roboto

    Year: 2011

    Written and Directed by: Mehmet Can Koçak

    Watch on Vimeo (NSFW Version) or YouTube (Safe Version)

    Check ‘em on Facebook

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

    Key Cast Members:

  • Hobo: Mehmet Can Koçak
  • Shell 001: Ilhan Şen
  • Cyber Pimp: Nazım Çınar
  • Redhed: Piper fawn
  • Rating: 7 out of 10

    Perspective opening

    Overview: Billed as a “Tribute to the cyberpunk genre,” Perspective gives us a rather unique… perspective… of a cyberpunked future, where VR is the drug of choice to escape the harsh reality of… well, reality. Mehmet Can Koçak shows us one person’s escape to a VR fantasy by not just following him with a camera, but with the person AS the camera as we look through the hobo’s eyes. It’s perfectly understandable if you suddenly feel like hunting shamblers, cyberdemons, or zombies with roast-turkey headgear…

    Perspective - Hobo Jacks In

    After all, it’s called “Perspective” for a reason.

    We “watch” as the hobo purchases a cartridge from a shady dealer then heads into a wreck of a building where he jacks into his Commodore 64T…

    64 Terrabyte Commodore

    64 Terabytes of RAM… on a Commodore 64… it can happen.


    … and dives into a fantasy encounter with a redhead girl. Until an apparent glitch causes more than a program crash.

     

    There once was a girl named Alice… At a running length of only ten minutes, Perspective doesn’t have much time to present in-depth themes. The one main theme is the mirror; How we see ourselves in reality and fantasy, and how the two can suddenly become fused together to cause no end of confusion. Or as Friedrich Nietzsche put it, when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you.

     

    Conclusion: Short-n-sweet. ‘Bout all I can really say. Koçak’s piece shows some potential for something more like, let’s say, a whole series of first-person movies; Short, interwoven films showing life in this future, and the viewer gets to choose what character’s eyes they would like to experience it. Might be a challenge to make, but it would a radical new way to “watch” movies.

    This post has been filed under Internet Find, Cyberpunk movies from 2010 - 2019, Amateur Film Production, Dystopic Future Movies, VR Movies, Man-machine Interface, Surreal Cyberpunk Movies by Mr. Roboto.

    October 30, 2010

    Tokyo Gore Police

    Movie Review By: SSJKamui (Reviewer Forum link)

    Year: 2008

    Directed by: Yoshiro Nishimura

    Written by: Kengo Kaji, Sayako Nakoshi and Yoshihiro Nishimura

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Medium

    Key Cast Members:

  • Ruka: Eihi Shiina
  • Keyman: Itsuji Itao
  • Tokyo Police Chief: Yukihide Benny
  • Barabara-Man: Jiji Bû
  • Bar Independent Diner: Ikuko Sawada
  • Dog Girl : Cay Izumi
  • Rating: 5 out of 10

    vlcsnap-1138852.png

    Looking for a good scare this Halloween? Tokyo Gore Police may have what you’re looking for. Be warned: The visuals may be more… “intense” than what most would go for. Let’s say this shit makes your “Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” and “Saw” franchises look like Disney productions.

    Overview: Tokyo Gore Police is a “Japanese Cyberpunk” splatter movie created by the producers of “The Machine Girl”. The movie is a remake of the independent movie “Anatomia Extinction”. Currently, a prequel short for the movie is in production.

     

    Plot: In the future, the privatized police, under control of the “Tokyo Police Corporation” has developed an extremely brutal, merciless law and order type way of action.
    The whole society developed into a sadistic, pervert society with an obsession of violence.

    Ruka is the daughter of a policeman who was assassinated in a very brutal way before the police was privatized. Because Ruka saw the assassination of her father, she was traumatized and developed self harming behavior. After the death of her father, she was adopted and raised by the chief officer of the Police Corporation.

    Later, an outbreak of a virus causes the infected people to mutate into bizarre monsters. The virus was created by a mad scientist to take revenge on the death of his father by the police. Later, it’s revealed that the father of the mad scientist is actually the murderer of Ruka’s father and the reason for the assassination was actually a conspiracy within the police, where the chief officer of the new Police Corporation has got a key role.

    After most mutants were killed by Ruka, the police start a Purge like action where also seemingly randomly civilians get hunted. Among the murdered civilians is also a close friend of Ruka. Because of this and the involvement of her foster father in the assassination of her biological father, Ruka gets mad and starts mutating, too. She fights the policemen and then encounters her foster father. Her father, who started mutating, too and using injections of the virus to get more powerfull starts fighting against his foster daughter.

    The story of the film is full of sick moments and extremely brutal scenes. For example, a mutant is a prostitute who eats her customers. There is also a huge amount of psycho-sexual horror, like in the works of H.R.Giger and most other “Japanese Cyberpunk movies”, but some scenes are more funny than scary.

    tokyo-gore-police02.jpg

    “Vagina dentata” much?

    The movie has got a huge amount of black humorous moments. For example, like in the Robocop movies, in the movie, there are certain fake commercial scenes advertising very sick things or speaking funny warnings. For example, knifes for self cutting are advertised in an extremely sick way and there is a television warning that committing Hara-kiri will result in your death. The chief officer of the police also has got a kind of “Cyborg Dog” who looks like a BDSM Costume.

    The depiction of the police in the movie is also the clichéd “ultra violent law and order” policemen type which often appear in Cyberpunk works. The most famous ones are Robocop and Judge Dredd.
    I agree with the Review on DVD Times.com , the film definitely reminds on Blade Runner, but it mostly lacks the brilliant atmosphere of Blade Runner. Only the driving scene through the streets of Tokyo and the Bar Scene catch a similar, brilliant atmosphere.

    The opening scene, where at first, all is peacefull, but suddenly, Rukas father is killed in a very brutal way was one of the best depictions of the concept of “the Real” by the psychologist Jacques Lacan, a kind of traumatic, unexplainable event suddenly appearing which is threatening the function of the mind, I have ever seen.

    tgp02.png

    Speaking of unexplainable events suddenly appearing which is threatening the function of the mind…

    On most parts, the movie is extremely entertaining, but I don’t understand these “police purge” scenes near the end of the movie and to me, these scenes doesn’t really make sense. The story of the movie isn’t very intellectual, but it’s a good satire on the actions of these populist law and order politicians. The story is also more complex than these Japanese Cyberpunk movies starring Dr.Joseph Mengele like Mad Scientists performing cruel experiments.

     

    Conclusion: Tokyo Gore Police is a truly sick brutal movie like most Japanese cyberpunk films. The story is also not very original and is mostly extremely thin. Nevertheless, it’s still an entertaining satire which can’t be taken seriously. Like all “Japanese Cyberpunk movies”, if you have got problems with violence, you won’t like this movie. Most of the horror scenes aren’t as scary as the horror scenes of the movies Yu On and The Ring, although these movies are less brutal.

    This post has been filed under Horror, From our Reviewer Forums, 5 Star Rated Movies, Japanese Cyberpunk, Surreal Cyberpunk Movies, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 - 2009 by Mr. Roboto.

    July 28, 2007

    A Clockwork Orange

    Movie Review By: Mr. Roboto

    Year: 1971

    Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

    Written by: Stanley Kubrick, based on the novel by Anthony Burgess

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

    Key Cast Members:

  • Alex de Large: Malcom McDowell
  • Frank Alexander: Patrick Magee
  • Dim: Warren Clarke
  • Gerogie: James Marcus
  • Rating: 8 out of 10


    korova.jpg
    Overview: Unquestionably, A Clockwork Orange has to be among the most recognizable names of pre-cyberpunk works, invoking surrealistic images of the old ultra violence, sex done to the William Tell Overture, models of naked girls as tables and beverage dispensers, chemically induced behavior modification, the threat of Karma,… and a bit of Beethoven for good measure. It has often been cited as inspiration for cyberpunk novels, and even Rob Zombie salutes the film in his video for “Never Gonna Stop (The Red Red Kroovy).” The subject matter, while speculating about 1995 from a 1960’s view, is still surprisingly relevant for 2007. With themes of street gangs, youth against the elderly, and forced behavioral changes against free will, one can swear the movie was more recent.

    But can it be called a cyberpunk movie? There’s no question about the “punk,” but in all honesty, it’s a little thin on the “cyber” since there’s no ubiquitous access to information or man-machine fusion, though Alex does undergo a “reprogramming” in a skull-cap wired to machines to monitor his vital functions. The lack of “cyber” isn’t Mr. Kubric’s or Mr. Burgess’s fault, since nobody in the 60’s could have predicted the impact of computer technology when 1995 rolled around. It still doesn’t subtract much from this piece of cinema goodness that many agree is a timeless classic.

    So grab a glass of milk mixed with your narcotic of choice, pull up a naked model table, brush up on your Nadsat, and vidi well, little brothers.

     

    The Story: Starting at the Korova Milk Bar, Alex De Large and his “droogs” tear up the streets of a future England city, beating derelicts, fighting other gangs, raising hell on the roads, invading homes, raping women, then returning to the Korova for a nightcap when we learn Alex also has an ear for Beethoven. His fun comes to an end when, during a failed home invasion. Alex kills a woman and is ambushed by his droogs, leaving him for the police to capture, convict of murder, and sentence to forty years in prison.

    Two years into his sentence, Alex learns of the Ludovico treatment. He wants to volunteer, but the Prison Chaplain expresses his doubts and tries to talk Alex out of it.

    chaplain.jpg

    “The question is whether or not this technique really makes a man good. Goodness comes from within. Goodness is chosen. When a man cannot choose, he ceases to be a man.”

    When the Minister of The Interior visits, he selects Alex for the Ludovico treatment. The treatment involves Alex being injected with an experimental serum and made to watch videos of violence and rape, where the serum causes unexpected results.

    Dr. Brodsky (During Alex’s first “treatment”): “Very soon now, the drug will cause the subject to experience a deathlike paralysis together with deep feelings of terror and helplessness. One of our early test subjects described it as being like death. A sense of stifling or drowning. At this period we have found that the subject will make his most rewarding associations between his catastrophic experience, environment and the violence he sees.”

    During one “treatment,” the doctors use Beethoven’s 9th Symphony as the background music while a Nazi propaganda was viewed. Alex objects to the use of the music, but the treatment continues, causing him to become conditioned to the piece.

    ludovico.jpg

    “Stop it! Stop IT! STOP IT! Stop showing NEW ROSE HOTEL! IT’S NOT CYBERPUNK!!!!!

    After the doctors show Alex’s treatment worked, he’s released back into society. That’s when the Universe plays the Karma card…

     

    Whose Pawn Is He Anyway? The theme of free will versus society’s programming is quite dominant with the implications of the Ludovico treatment, but an underlying theme of people being used as pawns for political and personal gain is noticeable, especially when Alex returns to the home of Frank Alexander, whose house he and his droogs invaded and whose wife they raped. At first, Frank only recognizes Alex as the boy who went through the Ludovico program and calls a friend who can use him:

    Frank Alexander: “He can be the most potent weapon imaginable to ensure the government is not returned in the election. The government’s big boast, sir, is the way they have dealt with crime: Recruiting young roughs into the police, proposing will-sapping techniques of conditioning. We’ve seen it before in other countries. The thin end of the wedge. Before we know it, we’ll have the full apparatus of totalitarianism. This young boy is a living witness to these diabolical proposals.”

    Frank doesn’t realize that Alex is the one who raped his wife until he hears Alex singing “Singing in the Rain” in the bath. He manages to get Alex to drink drug-laced wine to knock him unconscious. When Frank’s co-conspirators arrive, they lock Alex in an upper-floor room while playing Beethoven’s Ninth, causing Alex to attempt suicide. While recovering in the hospital, we see the old amoral Alex return when a nurse shows slides. The Minister of the Interior visits Alex to apologize for the treatment and offer a government job.

    Alex used the people he encountered for his own amusement, including his own droogs. After undergoing the treatment, he’s unable to defend himself as those he tormented and attacked gain a measure of revenge on him. Then he’s used as a political pawn.

    Conclusion: A Clockwork Orange is a difficult movie to describe. It’s not an easy view with it’s ultraviolence, rampant sex, and drug use, but it makes for an interesting movie nonetheless. It’s a sick, twisted, demented, deviant, weird, and totally fucked-up view of the future. In other words, a real good movie.

    To show A Clockwork Orange’s place in history, I’ve edited the AFI 100 years, 100 movies post.

    This post has been filed under Dystopic Future Movies, 8 Star Movies, Awesome Cyberpunk Visuals, Surreal Cyberpunk Movies, Cyberpunk movies from before 1980 by Mr. Roboto.

    Movie Review By: SFAM

    Year: 2004

    Directed by: Hiroki Yamaguchi

    Written by: Hiroki Yamaguchi

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

    Key Cast Members:

    • Luchino: Luchino Fujisaki
    • Elevator Operator: Ninalada Mochiduki
    • Business Man: Viblio Sawatsukumori
    • Housewife: Alamocia Nakaji
    • Headphone Guy: Nocosh Utsunomiya
    • Serial Rapist (prisoner): Zitacock Obitani
    • Bomber (prisonor): Calpico Teranouchi
    Rating: 7 out of 10

     


    Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap

     

    Overview: One thing I love about Indie movies is the opportunity for complete originality. Indie director Hiroki Yamaguchi delivers a strange, but very well made micro-budget movie that is truly unique. From viewing the extras, virtually every part of the set was designed by searching through junkyards for throw-offs. Similar to the Cube, Hellevator: The Bottled Fools largely takes place on a single set. Similar to Brazil, the world of Hellevator is a bizarrely dystopic surveillance society where things just don’t seem to work right. Nobody got paid who worked on this, but you wouldn’t know it from the quality. Hellevator definitely has its own feel.

     

    Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap

     

    The Setting: Hellevator takes place in a non-specific dystopic near future, where a colony of people have long ago decided to move underground. While some aspects of life clearly involve advanced technologies, there is a strong analog, mechanistic component to society. Now, all life takes place in a very large megalopolis comprised of a set of very large levels and tunnels. Life is fully governed by an omnipresent security force, who have cameras in all key locations. Over 130 levels in all, each has a specific purpose. Some have hospitals or schools, others are power centers, and Level 99 is the prison ward. Because everything is underground, issues related to air quality are at a premium. Smoking is illegal, and merits a death sentence. To get from each level, people use these very large, mechanical elevators.

     

    Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap

     

    The Story: The beginning of Hellevator starts off with a television report of a set of explosions on Level 138, which ends up killing over 100 people. The police have pegged a few suspects of causing this crime, both of which ended up stuck on an elevator which malfunctioned during the explosion. Flashback to Luchino (played by Luchino Fujisaki) who is a troubled teen-age girl living on Level 138 who is on her way to school, which is on Level 4. She has a penchant for rebelling against the system and starts her day by illegally purchasing cigarettes from a drug dealer. Unfortunately, she almost gets caught, and ends up leaving her still burning cigarette butt at the power center near a set of flammable fluid containers.

     

    Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap

     

    Luchino gets on the elevator to take her to level 4, which is where the rest of the story takes place. On each floor, new people get on while others leave. Eventually when the elevator gets past 110, the elevator operator announces that they have entered the “express mode” – no more stops should occur for a long time. At this point, the elevator is holding the white-gloved elevator operator (Ninalada Mochiduki), a business man (Viblio Sawatsukumori), a woman with a baby carriage (Alamocia Nakaji), a quite guy with headphones (Nocosh Utsunomiya) and Luchino. Unfortunately, the elevator is force-stopped at level 99, the prison level. Two prisoners, one a bomber (Calpico Teranouchi), and the other a serial rapist (played wonderfully by Zitacock Obitani) get on with a very unstable young prison guard. Shortly afterwards, the explosion on Level 138 occurs. This causes the elevator to malfunction, and the small group is now stranded.

     

    Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap

     

    The malfunctioned elevator becomes a powder keg for runaway paranoia. The prison guard starts to lose it, and through a strange sequence of events, causes the prisoners to become free. The rapist quickly beats the guard to a pulp, which ends with a sequence where he takes a bite out of the guard’s neck. From there the prisoners sadistically start to impose their will on the beleaguered elevator participants. The rapist starts to do his thing on the elevator operator and eventually starts kicking Luchino. Luchino starts to have flashbacks of times when her father abused her similarly - Luchino eventually snaps. She picks up the gun and starts to repeatedly shoot the bomber prisoner.

     

    Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap

     

    From there, the story devolves into a repetitive set of sequential events which cause various people on the elevator to lose control. Some result in murders while others result in interesting character expositions. Throughout, the mood is high tension paranoia. Eventually, the THX-1138-like guards break the remaining few left alive. The story then connects back to the police detective, who is in the process of interviewing those that survived the elevator trip. The ending, not discussed here, provides a different take on the world which this future takes place.

     

    Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap

     

    The Acting: The acting in Hellevator is far better than one would expect in a movie where nobody was getting paid. Luchino Fujisaki turns in a solid performance as a person devolving back into psychosis. Zitacock Obitani is terrific as an extremely bizarre serial rapist, and almost makes the movie a must-watch all by himself. The rest of the cast works. The only stand-out lousy performance is turned in by the blond haired prisoner guard, but he doesn’t last long enough to matter.

     

    Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap

     

    The Cinematography: Hellevator, uses two omnipresent color schemes: within the elevator, everything is dingy yellows and greens. For the police interrogation scenes, everything is dark blue. Yamaguchi makes liberal use of perspective shots, sometimes involving fish-eye lenses, and frequently looking down or up at the participants. In short, Yamaguchi makes the most of a very limited budget and set. He even throws in a Matrix slo-mo shot that was apparently filmed with a single camera.

     

    Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap

     

    System Service Staff as Robots: In Hellevator, the elevator lady acts completely robotic until the convicts break things. Her overt disposition is of a person who never gets rattled, never intimates a personal connection, and never changes her demeanor regardless of the surroundings. In a sense, she is the perfect employee for the underground megalopolis. Similar to movies like Brazil or 1984, the elevator lady represents the humans as machines metaphor. In this view, we are nothing more than a single redundant part – a cog in a massive machine. For the ideal system employee, individualism has been quashed in favor of ritualized, repeatable routines.

     

    Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap

     

    Telepathy: Hellevator does a good job of integrating telepaths into its strange world. The majority of the people are normal, and do not recognize the telepaths. In Hellevator, the Telepaths are able to notice when another uses their sensory perception. What makes Yamaguchi’s view of telepath’s somewhat interesting is he also touches on their ability to see others’ memories. This leads to some interesting flashbacks of others’ experiences on the elevator. More interesting though is the fact that Luchino’s personal psychosis colors her views of the others’ memories. This turns reading thoughts into something far less precise, and in the end makes it more believable.

     

    Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap

     

    Repression Exposed by Extreme Psychological Pressure: Hellevator explores extreme psychological pressures on a group of already unstable people. Everyone stuck on the elevator is hiding something significant about themselves. The businessman is potentially a bioterrorist; the woman with the crib is hiding groceries instead of a baby, and the quiet guy in the corner is masquerading as a cop. Luchino had been abused by her father to the point that she eventually flipped and killed him. She has since repressed her issues but when placed in a similar circumstance, Luchino responds similarly and goes on to murder one of the convicts. Her perception of reality starts to bear little resemblance to the rest. The robotic elevator woman turns into an emotional basket case. Although this is a fully reasonable reaction to an attempted rape, the contrast shown is with her earlier robotic persona. In fact, everyone, when thrown into this circumstance acts in wholly strange ways.

     

    Helevator: The Bottled Fools Screencap

     

    The Bottom Line: If you like Extreme Japanese Cyberpunk movies, Hellevator: The Bottled Fools is well worth a watch. There’s quite a bit of blood and gore, but not when compared to some of the more extreme straight Japanese horrors. The plot is pretty straightforward once the movie gets moving – I would have wished for a bit more interplay between the plot points. Also, there are a number of plot points which were touched on as significant, but were never completed. But overall, the movie is original and interesting. Little throwaways like the child’s pet brain only add to the fun. Yamaguchi and crew really make the most of their set and the overall shoot. This one will stay with you for a few days.

     

    Page 2: More Screencaps –>>

     

    This post has been filed under Dystopic Future Movies, Security-Surveillance State, Horror, 7 Star Movies, Japanese Cyberpunk, Surreal Cyberpunk Movies, Good low-budget movies, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 - 2009 by SFAM.

    July 16, 2006

    A Scanner Darkly

    Movie Review By: SFAM

    Year: 2006

    Directed by: Richard Linklater

    Written by: Philip K. Dick (Novel) Richard Linklater (Screenplay)

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Medium

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Medium

    Key Cast Members:

  • Bob Arctor: Keanu Reeves
  • James Barris: Robert Downey Jr.
  • Donna Hawthorne: Winona Ryder
  • Ernie Luckman: Woody Harrelson
  • Charles Freck: Rory Cochrane
  • Rating: 8 out of 10

    A Scanner Darkly screen capture

     

    Overview: In a very faithful adaptation to Philip K. Dick’s story of the same name, Linklater treats us to an interesting, slow moving story about abuse – abuse of power, drug abuse, abuse fo friendships, and abuse of the self. While most of the publicity about Scanner Darkly is about the rotoscoping technique used, the story itself is good enough that it probably could have worked in live action as well. A Scanner Darkly is engaged in a slow-opening process – hopefully you all get to see soon in a theater near you.

     

    A Scanner Darkly screen capture

     

    The Setting: Seven years into the future, a drug known as Substance “D” has transformed society. People are divided into addicts and those who haven’t taken Substance “D.” Society is quickly collapsing. In response to this threat, the government has transformed the society into a surveillance state, where neighbors spy on neighbors, and personal freedoms have been minimized. Everything is organized for instant observation – license plates are now bar-coded, and security is all DNA based. Trust has all but vanished in the world where Scanner Darkly resides. In its place, we have people who are constantly concerned about each other’s ulterior motives, and think nothing of stabbing someone in the back if only to win short term gains.

     

    A Scanner Darkly screen capture

     

    The Story: Scanner Darkly takes place seven years into the future and follows the plight of a close-knit group of addicts living outside of Anaheim, California. Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves) is works as a reluctant undercover police officer (called “Officer Fred” at work), who lives with group of addicts that he eventually needs to perform surveillance on. Bob no longer believes in what he is doing, but still goes through the motions. At work, all the police wear “scrambler suits” to ensure nobody knows who they are. As the story progresses, we get to see the absurd lives that each of the addicts lead. Bob’s girlfriend (Winona Ryder) is a coke addict who freaks out if touched; his friend Charles (Rory Cochrane) sees insects crawling over him at all times, and his two room mates are clearly fried beyond all recognition.

     

    A Scanner Darkly screen capture

     

    Unfortunately for Bob, his addiction is growing too. His grasp on reality starts to weaken as the hallucinations increase. He starts seeing his room mates as huge insects. Worse, one of his room mates (Robert Downey Jr.) visits the police department to narc on Bob. Bob, as the disguised Officer Fred, has the task of taking down his room mate’s statements and investigating them. As the movie proceeds, Bob becomes more disillusioned with his job and life, and begins to realize that he is losing his humanity.

     

    A Scanner Darkly screen capture

     

    An Excersize in Duality: Scanner Darkly sets a number of issues up in a duality. We have left brain – right brain separation as a side effect from extreme exposure to Substance “D,” we get surveillance and security opposing personal freedoms, and the two doctors treating Bob overtly represent the left and right hemispheres. Everything in Scanner Darkly is about dualities of tension, and the descent of humanity in the face of this tension.

     

    A Scanner Darkly screen capture

     

    The Paranoia: A Scanner Darkly delves into the paranoia mindset that develops when drug use combined with an out of control surveillance society has taken hold. Personal rights and individual freedoms are significantly subordinated in a society where the government is after the supposed drug barons. One begins to question, however, whether the drug barons themselves are just yet another tool by the government to gain complete control over the population. The idea of government abuse of power permeates virtually every scene. The ranting sessions within the drug addict group are all based on paranoid delusions about what the government is currently doing to them. Worse, some of their “paranoid delusions” end up being true!

     

    A Scanner Darkly screen capture

     

    Drugs Are Bad, K? Scanner Darkly pounds this message in as many ways as possible. Wanna screw up your perception? Substance “D” is for you! But don’t worry, its effects are not always permanent, just most of the time! Within the addict group, we see different people in various states of insanity. The message is clear – once you’re on this stuff, the descent into insanity is all but assured.

     

    A Scanner Darkly screen capture

     

    The Rotoscoping: The rotoscoping in Scanner Darkly works well as a device to create an atmospheric, otherworldly film, even though most of the scenes almost came off as red-neck central. Unlike Waking Life, where the hand drawn animation on top of live action is wildly uneven (on purpose) with the characters, for the most part the rotoscoping just gives it an ambiance. Also, the rotoscoping provides a wonderful base for the various hallucinations that happen in the course of the movie. Linklater’s rotoscoping technique seems to work best when there isn’t that much action on-screen. In some of the movement scenes (car riding, running, etc.), there is almost no difference between the rotoscoping and live action. There was also a lot of variances with the black lines around the faces – mostly this was pretty subdued, but in a few scenes, the black lines almost dominated the scene.

     

    A Scanner Darkly screen capture

     

    The Acting: For the most part, the acting is terrific in Scanner Darkly. Robert Downey Jr. especially shines, but Reeves’ performance fits perfectly for a man overtaken by events. Winona Ryder has some pretty solid moments (especially at the end), as does Woody Harrelson and Rory Cochrane. The better scenes usually involve Downey and another character involved in truly bizarre conversations. Some with Downey and Harrelson in particular are pretty funny.

     

    A Scanner Darkly screen capture

     

    The Bottom Line: A Scanner Darkly is a movie with great acting, interesting discussions and a very powerful ending. That said, some parts of Scanner Darkly come off as overkill (the drugs are bad part, for instance), whereas others could easily have benefited from more elaboration. Still, these are minor complaints, as the overall movie has terrific acting, a great score (by Radiohead), and an interesting, well constructed message. Fair warning though - this is NOT an action movie. The vast bulk involves people milling around and talking, without any real action ever taking place. As long as action isn’t necessary for you to enjoy a good cyberpunk flick, give Scanner Darkly a try.

     

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    This post has been filed under Dystopic Future Movies, Security-Surveillance State, 8 Star Movies, Animes, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 - 2009, Surreal Cyberpunk Movies, Movie by SFAM.

    July 2, 2006

    Fragile Machine

    Movie Review By: SFAM

    Year: 2005

    Directed by: Ben Steele

    Written by: Darren Dugan, John Pinckney, & Ben Steele

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Very High

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Very High

    Key Cast Members:

  • Leda Nea: Xi
  • Goho, Mary Nea: Molly Pinckney
  • Rating: 9 out of 10

    Fragile Machine screen capture

     

    Fragile Machine - a Cyberpunk Operetta: If there was ever such a thing as a cyberpunk operetta, Fragile Machine is it. Fragile Machine is an indie anime film short created by a very small organization of talented artists called Aoineko. Fragile Machine’s narrative is largely told through haunting Chinese and English vocals set to a rhythmic, keyboard-laden techno beat (you can hear the main track by clicking on the aoineko link above). The combination of mind-expanding surreal android images with Aoineko’s music provides an intensely immersive experience – one which slowly envelopes your senses until you are a participant on Leda Nea’s journey. Fragile Machine is divided into six distinct chapters, and is narrated by a small android girl named Goho.

     

    Fragile Machine screen capture

     

    The Story: Leda Nea, a lead scientist heading up android firm, Göln Remedios’ Project Zero, is distraught over the death of her daughter, Mary. She no longer is interested in living, and decides to sign away her rights to be become a test subject for Project Zero. Leda Nea agrees to have her consciousness inserted into an android body, but the experiment goes horribly wrong, and Nea’s consciousness is permanently trapped in the android. A year goes by and Leda Nea becomes Göln Remedios’ primary work. Leda Nea has lost all sense of her former life, but still realizes she is trapped in a antiseptic prison – one which she desperately wants to escape.

     

    Fragile Machine screen capture

     

    Eventually Leda Nea finds a way to trick her captors by using some of the android shells as decoys. Allthough still pursued by Göln Remedios’ droids, she escapes to the woods, and, surrounded by nature, begins to remember her humanity. In doing so, Leda Nea remembers that she hates herself and her very existence, and finally begins to remember the daughter she has lost. She continues to be pursued by Göln Remedios’ drones, but instead of getting captured she throws herself into a lake, and thus destroys her android body. At this point, her soul frees itself from its android host and embarks on an entirely new journey – one which could potentially provide Leda Nea salvation by connecting her back with that which she lost. While the ending chapter is visually astounding, I can’t go further without giving away the rest of the story.

     

    Fragile Machine screen capture

     

    A Post-modern Narrative: One one level, Fragile Machine appears to be a straightforward narrative in that it is explicitly divided into six chapters. Yet in watching this film, it becomes clear that the narrative is anything but straightforward. To understand the story, the viewer must pay close attention to the symbols, lyrics Goho’s commentaries, and the various visual indicators sprinkled throughout the film. While lasting just over 30 minutes, those interested in understanding the message will definitely benefit from giving Fragile Machine multiple viewings. The third time through, I found myself freezing the screen on a number of images in order to understand their significance. The story summary above is the result of watching Fragile Machine a number of times prior to piecing this all together. For instance, only very late in the film do you find out that Leda Nea is project manager of Project Zero, and is thus, responsible for her own destruction.

     

    Fragile Machine screen capture

     

    The Visuals: Even if you don’t care to spend time understanding the rich story and symbolism, Fragile Machine’s android visuals alone are well worth the cost of the DVD. Fragile Machine comes at man-machine integration and android creation and destruction from such a myriad of directions that it leaves the viewer in a state of wonderment. Through the film, color palettes are linked with the various symbols portrayed in Fragile Machine. Visual Homages are paid to a myriad of sources including Blade Runner, Metropolis, Ghost in the Shell and Planet of the Apes.

     

    Fragile Machine screen capture

     

    Animation Issues: While the artwork in Fragile Machine is intensely creative, the CG movement is definitely subpar when compared to some of the larger budget works. When Leda Nea is running, or the puppet narrator, Goho, is talking, the quality of the animation negatively affects the immersion. Depending on how you come to see Fragile Machine, this might be enough to turn you away from this incredible picture (perhaps this accounts for the insanely low score on IMDB). However, I would argue that the animation is only a minor knock in an otherwise perfect film short. In looking at the immensely small crew involved in making Fragile Machine, they pretty much nailed all aspects of this film that didn’t require massive CG animation engines. The post-modern story, the artwork and the music are all par excellence.

     

    Fragile Machine screen capture

     

    Interpreting Fragile Machine: Fragile Machine is visually and symbolically rich enough that the viewer can extract a number of fascinating thoughts. However, the larger point that Fragile Machine traces is a common cyberpunk theme - the idea that humans, in its pursuit of technology believes they will become omnipotent, with power over life and death itself. Yet in pursuing this course, we end up losing that which defines us – our humanity. Eventually, this pursuit of the taboo ends up destroying our very society. In a wonderful review of Fragile Machine, Jens points out that the corporation developing the androids, Göln Remedios, is visually similar to the Tower of Babel – both are stretching to the heavens in order to become God’s equal.

     

    Fragile Machine screen capture

     

    When we find out that Leda Nea is in fact the Lead for Project Zero, the emphathy shifts from a rather simplistic view Göln Remedios’ evil CEO figure being responsible to a far richer view. Leda Nea, in losing her daughter has lost her humanity, and thus no longer feels compelled to remain “human.” Her decent into subverting humanity starts well before she is captured in an android body. It begins with her work to build project zero – a project which at it core attempts to extract humanity and incarcerate it within a machine host. One almost wonders if Leda Nea initiated Project Zero in response to her daughter’s death. While the evil CEO is clearly interested in using Leda Nea as a tool in attaining virtual Godhood, it is Leda Nea who chooses to become the virtual fallen angel (as depicted by her red hue much of the time during her android descent). But ultimately, Fragile Machine becomes a story of redemption, as Leda Nea’s lost daughter, as represented by the elephant doll, becomes her guide towards finding ultimate salvation.

     

    Fragile Machine screen capture

     

    If an Android had a soul, what would happen to it when it dies? One of the more interesting questions Fragile Machine raises is the idea that if an android had a soul, what would happen when it dies? In pursuing this thought, Fragile Machine operates in the same territory as Ghost in the Shell, in which a human soul is essentially trapped within an android body. But the thought it raises can easily be taken farther than this: as we move ever closer towards sentient machines, what exactly becomes the difference between machines and humans? If machines become sentient, could they not also develop a soul? And if so, can this soul exist in some fashion even after its host has died?

     

    Fragile Machine screen capture

     

    What Does a Human Mask Represent? Similar to f8, Fragile Machine uses a mask of a human-looking face to represent the attainment of humanity. Only in this case, the mask represents humanity’s technology enabled drive to create post-humanity – androids in our own image. Interestingly, this interpretation masks when viewing the last chapter of Fragile Machine leads to an interesting conclusion about the pursuit of post-humans. One wonders whether it is possible to pursue sentient androids in a way that does not explicitly challenge God’s (or nature’s) sacred role over life and death. Fragile Machine almost seems to be advocating an evolutionary, emergent approach over an overt, dominating, dehumanizing approach.

     

    Fragile Machine screen capture

     

    The Bottom Line: Rarely do we encounter a film so creative in its development, where the sounds and visuals are inexorably linked in expressing such an interesting story. While the animation isn’t on par with larger scale productions, the songs and visuals more than make up for it. In totality, Fragile Machine conveys a complex, multi-layered story that is rich in symbols and ideas. This is truly a piece of cyberpunk art not to be missed. The DVD was out of print but is available again (see in the comments section for details). Give it a try if you’re looking for something different.

     

    Spoiler Alert! Page 2 has more screencaps, but some relate to the ending –>>

     

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    This post has been filed under Man-machine Interface, Awesome Cyberpunk Themes, Short Film, 9 Star Movies, Animes, Android Movies, Surreal Cyberpunk Movies, Awesome Cyberpunk Visuals, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 - 2009 by SFAM.

    June 9, 2006

    Death Powder

    Movie Review By: SFAM

    Year: 1986

    Directed by: Shigeru Izumiya

    Written by: Shigeru Izumiya

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Medium

    Key Cast Members:

  • Lead Researcher (Male): Takichi Inukai
  • Lead Researcher (Female): Rikako Murakami
  • Third Researcher: Shigeru Izumiya
  • Guernica (Android): Mari Natsuki
  • Rating: 5 out of 10

    The Death Powder screen capture

    Is there life without death?

     

    Overview: Here I yet again delve into the world of the experimental extreme Japanese Cyberpunk – this time to watch Death Power (Desu pawuda in Japanese), a movie Glam Creature discovered for me. Death Powder is a very low budget, mostly incoherent extreme Japanese Cyberpunk film with some occaisionally very interesting visuals. I probably would have liked this movie more had I obtained either a decent transfer or full subtitles. Unfortunately, the only place I could find this at the time was on LostSilver.com, a site that presses public domain movies to DVD-R format. All the main characters had appropriate subtitles, but the vast amount of mumbling in this film (mumbling usually occurred ultra-bizarre situations) was only subtitled in Chinese. The transfer was so bad that in some scenes the screen appears pixilated.

     

    The Death Powder screen capture

     

    The Story: In the very near future, a group of three researchers has captured a very special android named Guernica (Mari Natsuki), and have brought her to a deserted warehouse, and have tied her to cot, with a protective covering over her mouth. One researcher (Izumiya) is left to guard the Guernica, but appears to be slowly going crazy. Two of the researchers, a guy (Inukai) and a girl (Murakami) apparently have just escaped (presumably from some fallout after capturing Guernica) and are on their way back to the warehouse. Murakami tries calling Izumiya and discovers that something is wrong.

     

    The Death Powder screen capture

     

    They proceed carefully into the warehouse where they discover that Izumiya has gone crazy and is now trying to kill them. Izumiya makes it to Guernica, who suddenly sits up and blows dust all over Izumiya. From there, the movie turns extremely surreal. Guernica’s body slowly disappears into dust, while Izumiya’s face starts to expand dramatically (in a very low-budget sort of way), while Izumiya rips his hand off and Inukai shoots Izumiya with a futuristic looking gun. Things settle down with Izumiya off hallucinating, while Izumiya has somehow captured and tied Inukai to Guernica’s metal cot. She gets free and beats Izumiya to a pulp.

     

    The Death Powder screen capture

    Sometimes death is the ultimate statement.

     

    Meanwhile, Inukai’s hallucinations have provided him omniscience. Inijai proclaims, “”I understand the secrets of the flesh.” He sees Guernica’s origins and the ongoing struggle with the scar people, who are people who’s flesh is slowly decaying on their bodies. Things get even weirder from there with visuals of massive globs of oozing puss creatures with eyes, an incoherent video montage, a fight with the scar people, and in the end, we find a very bizarre looking monster sitting in a vast setting of emptiness.

     

    The Death Powder screen capture

     

    What The Fuck is This Film About??? I fully acknowledge that Death Powder is incoherent enough that attempting to interpret it will potentially lead to nonsensical ambiguity. Unlike others like Tetsuo, which CLEARLY has a point even though many claim are incoherent, this film may not simply hold together well enough to have a clear point. That being said, after two watches, it appears that the death powder is an allegory for technology’s insidious and pervasive destruction of mankind. That Android chick’s name, Guernica, after Picasso’s famous painting, gives us the clue. She is the embodiment of humanity’s destructive tendencies, and like the painting, her ultimate impact is seen with dead, injured, dismembered and torn bodies. That Geurnica is created by a rock star playing an electric guitar indicates that our technology enabled modern culture is ultimately to blame. A bastardized version Christian forbidden fruit analogy also is at play here in that a woman (android) possesses the forbidden knowledge, and humanity tries to access it by capturing her and covering her mouth. The implication is that they hope to possess the knowledge without suffering the consequences.

     

    The Death Powder screen capture

     

    The other aspect that Izumiya seems to explore is the nexus between life and death. Death Powder explores competing ideologies in examining this question. Initially, we are told that “Life without flesh is death.” The researcher, now fully infected and potentially dead, but still thinking (meaning his flesh is dead), responds to this thought with the following:

     

    There is no death without life. There is no Answer to this Madness.
    Heaven exists within my body…dead. But Hell…Hell is everywhere!

     

    To which, the Android, Guernica responds, “Is there life without death?” From an android’s perspective, this is probably a VERY interesting line of questioning. If you are able to think, does this not imply you are alive? But if you have no flesh – doesn’t this imply you cannot die? This is of course completely at odds with the original statement. When we include the scar people – a faceless gang of humans losing their flesh – as those espousing that life without flesh is death, we are left with a losing struggle where living humanity (flesh) is supplanted by our technological monstrosities our culture creates. In effect, Izumiya is espousing that humanity slowly dies as our culture is merged with technology. In the end, all that is left is this zombie-like monstrosity that is neither alive or dead, but definitely isn’t human.

     

    The Death Powder screen capture

     

    Disconnected Bizarre Video Montage: At about three-fourths through the 62 minute movie, Death Powder breaks into a ten minute plus video montage segment. This occurs after the death powder-enabled android chick states something to the effect that there are far more people to infect, so she must hurry. I’m guessing this is supposed to be Guernica’s Destroy the World tour. This would work except that when its over, we are brought right back to the warehouse, this time to await some workers who are lured into the pit of horrors. In ending it as such, the purpose of the montage seems to disappear. In the end, we are left with the idea that director Shigeru Izumiya had also developed this cool video montage footage, and wanted to include it somewhere. It does look pretty cool though.

     

    The Death Powder screen capture

    Life without flesh is death.

     

    The Visuals: Like many experimental films, Izumiya literally throws in every kind of camera technique available. We get tons of perspective shots, multiple exposure shots, different overexposed lighting shots, completely strange camera angles (like a sideways up-above running shot), all wrapped up in a myriad of disturbing visuals. Whether we get coherency or not, Death Powder is certainly creative. I really wish I had been able to obtain a better copy of the film, as I’m afraid the color is washed out on Lostsilver’s public domain version (although I don’t know – perhaps this is intentional). This leaves the film with a very washed out, almost (but not quite) black and white look.

     

    The Death Powder screen capture

     

    The Sound: Perhaps Death Powder’s best strength is in its sound effects. Izumiya continually barrages the audience with a cornucopia of industrial/techno cyberpunk sounds. We get various low-toned keyboard pieces combined with strange and eerie sounds of all types and textures. If I had to guess, I’d say the majority of the time spent on producing Death Powder was working with the sound track – it’s by far the most polished aspect of the movie. This may not be all that surprising considering Izumiya got his start composing for Japanese Cyberpunk director Sogo Ishii on Crazy Thunder Road.

     

    The Death Powder screen capture

     

    The Bottom Line: I wonder if I’ve become jaded since watching a number of these extreme Japanese Cyberpunk flicks. Many comments about Death Powder indicate that people were blown away by the visuals and have never seen anything like this – some to the point of even having nightmares about it. If this is your first, or perhaps even second experience in delving into extreme Japanese Cyberpunk movies, than perhaps Death Powder comes off much better. However, as much as I love the experimental visuals, this movie clearly could have been put together better. There is a lack of crafting in Death Powder which negatively impacts the movie-watching experience. Still, Death Powder, while incoherent, is at least unique, creative and interesting, so there’s certainly something worth watching here. It’s for this reason that I’m giving it 5 stars instead of 4. I really wish I was able to get a better transfer of this, but even if I had it, I still doubt I’d be giving it more than 5 stars.

     

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    This post has been filed under Japanese Cyberpunk, 5 Star Rated Movies, Horror, B Cyberpunk Cinema, Surreal Cyberpunk Movies, Cyberpunk movies from 1980-1989, Android Movies, Movie by SFAM.

    May 25, 2006

    Brazil

    Movie Review By: SFAM

    Year: 1985

    Directed by: Terry Gilliam

    Written by: Terry Gilliam, Tom Stoppard & Charles McKeown

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: High

    Key Cast Members:

  • Sam Lowry: Jonathan Pryce
  • Jill Layton: Kim Greist
  • Archibald ‘Harry’ Tuttle: Robert De Niro
  • Mrs. Ida Lowry: Katherine Helmond
  • Michael Palin: Jack Lint
  • Spoor: Bob Hoskins
  • Mr. M. Kurtzmann: Ian Holm
  • Rating: 10 out of 10

    Brazil screen capture

     

    Overview: Terry Gilliam describes Brazil as “Franz Kafka meets Walter Middy” - this sort of fits. Using the name of Arry Barroso’s 1930s escapist song, Brazil is set in a nightmarish, fantasized dystopic future, Gilliam gives us a story about humanity attempting to escape reality by retreating into one’s own dreams. This is all the more interesting given the enormous fights Terry Gilliam had to engage in with Universal to even get the picture (in a non-bastardized form) released. Brazil is a visual and thematic tour-de-force which deserves a watch by all who are interested in having movies provoke deep thoughts, long after the film has concluded.

     

    Brazil screen capture

     

    The Setting: Brazil takes place in a fantasized dystopic future where runaway, controlling, technocratic bureaucracy that has invaded all aspects of daily life. Arcane forms with incoherent instructions are required to do anything, but the goal is always completeness and finality over actual results. Appearances are everything in Brazil – actual human relationships are a luxury most do without. Humans survive in this world by keeping their “real” selves bottled up inside as a cocoon, while overtly they serve their role as a specific cog in the system. Keep the desk clean, the expensive suit pressed and your family looking perfect and you’ll be alright. Continually we see non-human responses to horrific disasters. In one restaurant scene, half the patrons have been blown up by a bomb, but the maître d’ is far more concerned with hiding the destruction from his elite patrons by erecting a pleasant backdrop than he is in helping those horribly injured.

     

    Brazil screen capture

     

    The Story: Sam Lowry (played wonderfully by Jonathan Pryce), our hero, from the beginning adapts to the system, but separates his “true” self in his dreams. Sam works as a minor cog in a the massively large bureaucracy called the Ministry of Information. The Ministry of Information eats up 7% of the total GDP in its pursuit of society’s subversive elements, including the terrorists, who randomly bomb the rich and wealthy throughout the movie. Even though Sam comes from a prominent family with connections, he wants nothing to do with career advancement. Sam long ago gave up aspirations, and only wants to get through life unnoticed - until the love of his dream life appears in the real world. Sam throws everything else aside in order to meet up with this chick, but unfortunately, the “system” and even his own preconceptions continually get in the way. As the story unfolds, we see the bureaucracy in action in what becomes a struggle of freedom and individuality against the technological domination of humanity.

     

    Brazil screen capture

     

    The Visuals: Brazil is a visually powerful movie. In its more sedate moments, Brazil starts off as a noir-ish style setting with 40s style suits and hats, tall squared buildings, computers driven by typewriters and dark lighting from above. But very quickly, Brazil changes to a surreal experience, which shoes converted to hats, ventilation pipes dominating every roomscape, and massive expansive buildings without ground floors. Ventilation pipes are Gilliam’s symbol for technology run rampant. Massively tall buildings are symbols for bureaucratic power. Throughout, dark gray is the dominating color. Visually, the world of Brazil is decidedly bleak – more bleak in fact than humanity can overcome.

     

    Brazil screen capture

     

    The Sound: Brazil’s score fully encapsulates the ambiance that Gilliam is expressing. We have high flowing orchestral pieces, cheesy, squeaky monophone songs, marches that integrate type-writers as the rhythm section, and all sorts of diversity that captures the quirky, bittersweet feel that Brazil often conveys. The continually harsh, metallic sound FX also highten the ambiance. What we are left with is a wonderful meshing of visuals and sound as a backdrop for the wonderful performances throughout.

     

    Brazil screen capture

     

    The Cast: One of Gilliam’s real skills in Brazil is taking an extremely large cast, filled with potentially interesting roles, and making them all meaningful. Continually, Brazil provides us a stream of totally interesting role players that add to the quirky universe that is this fantasized future. Robert De Niro is terrific as Harry Tuttle, a heat engineer-turned anarchist revolutionary. Michael Palin plays a terrific best friend and torturer, and Katherin Helmond plays a totally wierd, excentric but powerful mother. There are a number of other unique roles, including Ian Holm who plays a terrific cowardly, conniving boss, and Bob Hoskins as a slighted and crazed heat engineer. Jonathan Pryce is absolutely superb as the lead, and Kim Greist plays an interesting counter-point love interest. All in all, the roles come across as entirely memorable.

     

    Brazil screen capture

     

    Dream Trapped Inside of a Nightmare: On the “Making of” segment of the Criterion Edition, Brazil is described as a dream trapped inside of a nightmare by star Jonathan Pryce. Pryce’s character, Sam Lowry, dreams the ultimate dream of happiness. In his dream, he is a fantasy warrior with angel wings who fights the denizens of the deep to rescue his idealized damsel in distress. In reality though, every aspect of his life is a nightmare. The “system” that is the bureaucracy, in an attempt to root out the terrorists, has extended its omnipresent tentacles into every aspect of life. At best, Lowry’s idealized reality involves being un-noticed by anyone. Unfortunately, once he discovers his idealized mate in real life, he can no longer remain obscure. He risks everything in a failed attempt to transform his dream into reality. In the end, Brazil shows how the depths of humanity can be crushed in a dystopic future where individuality and human rights become completely subservient to societal “welfare.”

     

    Brazil screen capture

     

    Use of Information: In Brazil, the collection and storage of information is paramount. While Brazil takes place in a dystopic future, computers have never advanced past arcane mainframes. The notion of usability, or people-centric computing is an anathema to the world of Brazil. The horror of horrors for the bureaucracy is finding a piece of paper without a home, or even worse, acknowledging that the “mistake” that caused this out of place paper belongs in your department! In Brazil, the fact that a person dies and a family is destroyed by this paperwork glitch is completely beside the point. In fact, the Samurai warrior character (see below) that Lowry fights in his dreams is fully comprised of computer parts – information and computers are indeed the ultimate evil for humanity.

     

    Brazil screen capture

     

    Terror As a Means of Extracting Information: One of the really interesting notions in Brazil that resonates today is the idea that the government engages in torture as a means of extracting information about potential terrorists. The throwaway comments from Sam, who has bought into this world, indicates that the choice HAS to be between this invasive government and sheer anarchy. When brought to the level of the individual, one has the sense that little by little, the government in Brazil slowly invaded individual freedoms as a way of combating the terrorists. The clear impression though is one of ever escalating acts – as the government becomes more invasive, the anarchic responses become more extravagant. De Niro’s character, the heroic anarchist heating engineer, represents this history of society, and humanity’s ultimate response.

     

    Brazil screen capture

     

    Is Brazil Cyberpunk? Due to the fantasy elements we see in Brazil, it’s hard to refer to it as a straight cyberpunk movie. While the dream sequences aren’t an issue, the dystopic future clearly isn’t supposed to represent an actual near-term future – it’s a fantasized version of issues currently playing out in society today. Still, the message of invasive technology and dominating totalitarian control destroying humanity is rarely done better than we see in Brazil. And while Brazil is wonderfully quirky, it’s the ending that truly feels like a cyberpunk film. Here we get both common cyberpunk visuals and philosophy in every sense of the word. The ending especially mimics many other cyberpunk films, where…

    [SPOILERS – HIGHLIGHT THE TEXT TO SEE]
    Throughout the last half of the film, Sam’s perception of reality becomes more and more governed by perceptions from his dream world. His actions leading to his final arrest are based on a perceptual mix of fantasy with reality. At the end, Sam is seems to make the conscious choice to disavow the real world in favor of his internally constructed fantasy. In this sense, Sam has finally attained the freedom he long sought after. Interestingly, a very similar approach is also used at the end of Save the Green Planet.

     

    Brazil screen capture

     

    The Bottom Line: The world of Brazil is steeped in a runaway, controlling, technocratic bureaucracy that has its tentacles in every part of humanity. The ducts dominate every room, including the family household living room at the beginning. To humanity, the message is clear – “Your actual lives must be adapted to suit OUR needs, not yours; freedom now only exists in your own dreams.” In the end we are shown the myth of a free man in a tightly controlled society – the only freedom we ultimately possess is within our own perceptions – that is the only source where salvation can be found. Visually, Brazil is simply stunning. The story is incredibly creative, the acting is great (especially De Niro and Pryce) and the dialogue is terrific. Furthermore, your Gilliam’s wonderful sense of humor seeps out of every pore in this movie - such as the notion that the information retrieval department never retrieves any information. In short, Brazil is movie worthy of high praise.

     

    Go to Page 2 for More Screencaps–>

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    This post has been filed under Awesome Cyberpunk Themes, Security-Surveillance State, Dystopic Future Movies, 10 Star Movies, Surreal Cyberpunk Movies, Awesome Cyberpunk Visuals, Cyberpunk movies from 1980-1989 by SFAM.

    May 6, 2006

    Electric Dragon 80,000V

    Movie Review By: SFAM

    Year: 2001

    Directed by: Sogo Ishii

    Written by: Sogo Ishii

    IMDB Reference

    Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: High

    Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Medium

    Key Cast Members:

  • Dragon Eye Morrison: Tadanobu Asano
  • Thunderbolt Buddha: Masatoshi Nagase
  • Rating: 7 out of 10

    Electric Dragon 80,000V screen capture

     

    Overview: Sogo Ishii, master of the Japanese Extreme Cinema delivers a truly bizarre experience for us in Electric Dragon 80,000V. If you added the dialogue from this whole movie up, you probably wouldn’t get much more than a page or two. The story is told through visuals, and that said, the narrative itself isn’t all that deep. So why do I give the movie a decent rating? Simple – the visuals and the overall mood this film creates are absolutely unique. Electric Dragon 80,000V is first and foremost an experiential flick. The narrative definitely takes a back seat to the visual and sound integration.

     

    Electric Dragon 80,000 V screen capture

     

    The Story: Electric Dragon 80,0000V follows the maturation of two kids who had traumatic experiences with electricity when they were young. One, Dragon Eye Morrison (played by Tadanobu Asano, who also stars as Kakihara in Ichii, the Killer), underwent electric shock treatment due to being violent as a kid – specifically, he endured 80,000 Volts of electricity. When Dragon Eye Morrison undergoes electric shock treatment, something in his reaction awakens the Dragon. The Dragon is the Eastern style dragon – one that’s embedded in all living things and the world at large. Dragon Eye Morrison’s connection with the dragon releases the rage within in, and thus, forces him to get more shock treatments. With each electric shock treatment, he develops a deeper connection with the dragon. By the time he’s an adult, Morrison can commune with reptiles (he owns a bunch), and has learned that playing REALLY LOUD guitar music (well, playing really loud anyways) is able to sooth the rage within him.

     

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    The other, Thunderbolt Buddha (Masatoshi Nagase) got electrocuted with 20 million volts while attempting to climb a power-line tower. The electricity is so high that half of his body becomes encased in metal – and in fact his personality is as split as his body. One side of him is trying to kill himself, while the other is deviously listening in on all electric conversations within his vicinity. It’s not to hard to figure out that Thunderbolt Budda is the bad guy in this modern Godzilla story.

     

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    By the time they are both adults, somehow Thunderbolt Buddha, who spends his time attached to a satellite dish, scanning the city, finds out about Dragon Eye Morrison – worse, he decides that the world isn’t big enough for the both of them! So Thunderbolt invades Morrison’s apartment and kills some of his lizards and takes others prisoner. Sure enough, Dragon Eye Morrison figures out who the culprit is and they meet at high noon! From there – it. is. ON BABY!!!!

     

    Electric Dragon 80,000 V screen capture

     

    What the Fuck is This Movie About? Yes, at first glance, this movie appears to be pretty shallow and non-sensical, and it may just be. But I like deeper meanings, so allow me to intuit. OK – assuming there is any meaning one can derive from this movie, my wild ass guess is it is this – Dragon Eye Morrison represents the Dragon on earth personified, whereas Thunderbolt Buddha represents modern technology. At first glance, modern technology appears stronger than the earth (20,000 volts to 80,000), yet, due to his ability to bring the full might of the dragon to bare, he’s able to stand up to modern technology. What’s interesting about this theory is the reversal of fortunes: Dragon Eye Morrison gets transformed to merging with the Dragon (earth) due to the detrimental use of technology on him, whereas Thunderbolt Buddha is transformed by a natural occurrence – lighting. In a sense, both grow up reacting against that which transformed them. Or, um, my theory is full of bunk – you make the call. :)

     

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    The Sound: As tightly integrated as can be, Electric Dragon 80,000V links massively loud and distorted guitar sounds with the kinetic visuals. This is really the true genius of Ishii’s work. Like all Japanese Cyberpunk movies, Electric Dragon provides an assault on the senses. Unlike most, the assault in this case isn’t as strong on notion of humanity itself, but is instead an assault on you, the viewer. To really experience this movie in the way it was intended, I STRONGLY recommend absolutely cranking the sound. If you don’t do this, you really will lose out on the mood this picture tries to set, and really, will not get the attraction

     

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    The Visuals: Electric Dragon 80,000V is really rather sedate for the first half. While well shot, the visuals aren’t really that noteworthy from a Japanese Cyberpunk standpoint. But the second half is FILLED with a bevy of truly bizarre shots. Electricity integrated with humans is the theme, and it is explored in a variety of ways, though showing various forms of electricity to kinetic shots of volts coursing through our lead characters. The second half uses the same style of stop-motion animation we get in Tetsuo - The Iron Man. While the movies are radically different, the movement of these two films is pretty similar.

     

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    The Bottom Line: Electric Dragon 80,000V is clearly an indulgence in extremes. The mood brought on by the sounds and visuals far outweighs what little exists of the narrative. In the end, Electric Dragon 80,000V is either a movie you really dig or absolutely abhor. For this reason, I find it pretty difficult to give a solid rating, so I’ve gone with 7 stars - which implies that it’s a good movie, but one that some may not like. The entire thing is barely 50 minutes, so if you find yourself hating it, not to worry, it will be over soon. If you do like it though, Electric Dragon 80,000V has solid replay value.

     

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    This post has been filed under 7 Star Movies, Man-machine Interface, Japanese Cyberpunk, Good low-budget movies, Surreal Cyberpunk Movies, Awesome Cyberpunk Visuals, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 - 2009 by SFAM.
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