Sunday, January 24, 2016

√ 964 Pinocchio

   My impromptu exploration of the cyberpunk genre has brought me here. A movie I've wanted to see for as long as I've also been avoiding it. Far from the stylized techo-lingo and futuristic urban landscapes of William Gibson novels and movies like Blade Runner√ 964 Pinocchio belongs to it's own brand of cyberpunk. Namely, Japanese cyberpunk. Without the budget to create sprawling epic visuals, Japanese cyberpunk relied on intense and frenetic camerawork, rapid-fire editing, and readily available sets, displaying urban-industrial decay- such as boiler rooms, abandoned buildings, warehouses, and the like. This gives Japanese cyberpunk a unique and unsettling flavor. As such, calling √ 964 Pinocchio unique and unsettling would be a massive understatement...

   The internet has been my portal to exploring cyberpunk. Articles, lists, and databases have helped me compile my own to-watch list of all these cyberpunk movies. But, my infatuation with the genre is not new. I've been into cyberpunk for a good long while. I explored a lot of the anime in the genre, and obvious genre juggernauts- like Blade Runner and The Matrix. But, I never really got around to watching Japanese cyberpunk. I was very familiar with Tetsuo: The Iron Man, and have seen some of it before- but it was as off-putting as it was interesting. I quickly deemed that I simply was not ready to digest something like that, and I stuck to more familiar flavors of cyberpunk, leaving Tetsuo- and by extension, all Japanese cyberpunk, to be explored at a later date.

  I'd heard and read a lot about √ 964 Pinocchio, and it looked to be even more off-putting than Tetsuo. Although, I was just as interested. A low budget cyberpunk thriller about a defective sex android who's thrown out onto the streets, left to wander the city aimlessly. Crazy stuff! Anyways, I'd avoided the movie for the longest time because I'd also read that it's not much more than 90 odd minutes of running, vomiting and screaming. Well... they were only half wrong. Yeah, it is 90 odd minutes of running, vomiting and screaming- but it happens to be a lot more than that at the same time. It donned on me about halfway through, this movie looks and sounds like how it feels to remember a nightmare.

   Nothing quite makes sense, but you still know what's going on. Things take forever, yet happen extremely fast. Sounds, sights, and textures blur together- creating uncomfortable and unsettling feelings and moods. That is √ 964 Pinocchio. It's a cyberpunk nightmare. Sure it's 90 minutes of crazy, gross-out, frenetic lunacy- but that's not a bad thing. This is the dark underside to a genre about high tech vs low class. Yet, in Japanese cyberpunk- the low budgets have brought things down a notch, making it low tech vs low class. There's no aesthetically pleasing angle to this, it's all ugly and in-your-face. But, it's wildly interesting- both the movie itself, and the background of Japanese cyberpunk in general.

  I'm glad I waited until now to watch √ 964 Pinocchio, because I couldn't have appreciated or even sat through this movie four or five years ago. I would've been woefully out of my depth. Back then I just wanted dark and violent, science fiction, adventure. √ 964 Pinocchio is dark, and violent, but it's not an adventure. It has more in common with the story of Frankenstein than anything else. As a failed product, the sex android- called Pinocchio, eventually sets out to confront his maker. It should also be noted that Pinocchio isn't really an android. He's more of a cyborg. He was once a human, but captured (I'm assuming) and experimented on to create a product. A living sex toy. So, in essence, Pinocchio is the opposite of his namesake. He was a real boy, and now is anything but. He is basically post-human.

  If that's not a cyberpunk concept, I don't know what is. Furthermore, if that happened to you... wouldn't you spend the next few days of your life running, screaming and vomiting? Hell, I know I would. It would be like living a nightmare, and in some ways I feel like the surreal stories and experiences of Japanese cyberpunk movies are so raw and in-your-face because we're meant to experience them like the main characters in the movies do. Things are exaggerated, scary, and non-stop. Just like √ 964 Pinocchio. It's a crazy, wild, gross, trippy movie that will never be for everyone. Genre fans will eat it up (bad choice of words...) and everyone else will just look on in disgust and confusion. It's okay though... that's kind of the point, I gather.

   Fair warning, as interesting as I found √ 964 Pinocchio, and I liked reading about it, writing about it and such... it's really hard to sit through, at least it was for me. It really is truly 90 something minutes of running, screaming and vomiting. Sometimes all those things happen at once, and then keep happening for uncomfortably long stretches of screentime. The movie is almost constantly incomprehensible, only stopping for brief moments to deliver a few choice lines of dialog to keep you invested in the characters. There's a solid five minute sequence towards the end of Pinocchio yelling, screaming, and running through the streets, towards the end of the movie. It's almost headache inducing.  I can't believe there's people who sit back and enjoy this as a regular movie.

   As partial as I'll always be to the neon rife cities of Blade Runner and Akira, the hi-tech cybernetic gadgets, and the violent action of western cyberpunk, I could stand to explore the eastern side of things for a while longer. I'll probably be digging back into the Tetsuo movies before long. Stay tuned!

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