Wednesday, June 2, 2010

#3 of the Top Five Bizarro Films Countdown!

The Film Connoisseur’s #3 Bizarro Film: ERASERHEAD (David Lynch, United States, 1977) 

When talking about Bizarre films, it goes without saying that David Lynch has to pop up in the conversation at some point. The man is known for making films that mess with your head. But it all started with a little film called Eraserhead. Eraserhead was David Lynch’s first film. He made it while attending film school during the span of six long years. He would film a little bit every now and then until the masterpiece of bizarre cinema known as Eraserhead was born. At first glance, one might look at this movie and think that it’s just a weird movie for weird’s sake. But it isn’t. When we look deeper into it, at its core, Eraserhead is a film about the horrors of living with someone you don’t love, and worse yet, having a child with said person. The main character in the film -a working class hero called Henry- ends up getting a girl he has absolutely no feelings for, pregnant. Suddenly, he has to live with this girl and the baby they brought into this world. Problem is, the baby they end up having is deformed! The film focuses on how uncomfortable a situation it is to live with someone you don’t love, or don’t have any sexual desire for. And also how awful it is to be forced into parenthood when you are obviously not ready for it, or have no desire to be a parent. The film is made that much more bizarre simply because David Lynch is the one who is directing. He manages to harness truly awkward and uncomfortable situations on this film, the vibe felt in many of the scenes in the film is the complete opposite of happy or normal. True uneasiness is felt through out the performances and situations. These are characters who are not happy at all with their lives. In a way Lynch is saying: don’t let yourself turn into this! You should know a couple of things before seeing this film: its black and white, it’s very symbolic and surreal, and it won’t make you feel all happy and shiny inside. It’s grim, dark and depressive. And shocking! I showed this movie one time to a friend of mine and midway through the movie he simply turned his back on the film and said “Im not watching any more of this! I refuse!” The movie is that bizarre! If you feel like exploring more of David Lynch's extremely bizarre filmology, then check out Lost Highway or Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me two films that I also considered putting on this countdown.

Outstanding Bizarre Sequence: A dream sequence has Henry meet this lady who is singing a song from a stage. Her cheeks are bloated for some reason, and she sings a song called “In Heaven Everything is Alright” As she sings, these giant spermatozoa starts falling from the sky! She avoids them, the giant sperm hit the floor and then she proceeds to crushes them with her shoes. 

The Celluloid Highway's # 3 Bizarro Film: TETSUO (Shinya Tsukamoto, Japan, 1989)

Tetsuo is a frenzied and insane cinematic experience and one which has to be seen to be believed. It was the product of Japanese auteur Shinya Tsukamoto (a man whose bizarre passion for odd imagery has remained undiluted over the years - see Tokyo Fist (1995) and A Snake of June (2002)) who acted as writer, director, producer, cinematographer, editor and art director on this sixty minute mind bender. Shot in arty black and white, the film manages to address urban and environmental anxieties in the Tokyo of 1989 as well as having an appeal to western audiences through its recycling of the ‘body horror’ themes of David Cronenberg and the industrialised nightmare imagery of early David Lynch. The films elliptical and fragmented editorial strategy means any attempt to construct narrative sense is very difficult. Instead one must give in to the sheer audaciousness and savagery of this unique metallic nightmare. Tsukamoto contrasts the dour and depressing existence of a salaryman with the masochistic ecstasies of a metal fetishist, but when there mutually opposed worlds collide it is the life of the salaryman that is most radically altered. His discovery that bits of scrap metal are growing from his body is a shock, but nothing compared to the monster he becomes at the end - a vengeful creature in which the flesh has been totally corrupted and lies subjugated beneath the rusty detritus of modern industrial endeavour. The film is a metaphor for the relentless march of industrial progress, a journey that Tsukamoto pushes to an extreme, one in which man and the products of industrial enterprise have merged into one tortured being. From a formal perspective this is a fascinating film, but one which does have to defend charges of being a little too self-consciously arty. Tsukamoto utilises a rapid fire cutting style, weird camera angles, stop motion techniques, and virtually excises all dialogue - instead the soundtrack is filled with a thumping industrial score that never allows the audience a moments peace. The result feels like a visual and aural assault. Tsukamoto followed this film with a sequel Tetsuo II: Body Hammer in 1992 and a third film Tetsuo: The Bullet Man in 2009, but none of his films since have achieved the energy and bizarreness of this startling debut.

This Top Five Countdown of Bizarro films is being done in collaboration with Shaun Anderson from the excellent movie review blog The Celluloid Highway, check it out if you haven't done so already, its a very well written and informative blog I know many of you will enjoy! Don't forget to come back tomorrow for the #2 choices for most bizarre films. The countdown will only get weirder and weirder! See you tomorrow!

For part 4 of the Top Five Bizarro Films Countdown CLICK HERE!

Tetsuo: The Iron ManEraserhead


Unknown said...

Love ERASERHEAD! My fave scene is the dinner scene with Henry and Mary's parents. "Just cut 'em up like regular chickens?" And then the wee chicken starts oozing what looks like blood... WTF?! Great film and really the blueprint, thematically, for the rest of Lynch's films to follow.

Franco Macabro said...

Yeah, the little chickens. That is the scene where whoever is watching it for the firs time goes "what the fuck am I watching?"

There are other great scenes like that one, for example, when Henry sits on the sofa and he sees that dog feeding all those puppies..or that scene where the mother is asking Henry if he's had sexual intercourse with her daughter...I mean, the awkwardness just goes on and on.

There is a key sequence in ERASERHEAD, the dream sequence, where Henry gets his head chopped off, that whole scene is very symbolic, it speaks of how Henry wishes he could erase this whole situation from his head. Its why they turn the contents of his brain, into the eraser. And its where the film gets its title.

Shaun's choice, Tetsuo, is also a mighty strange film. In many instances (as Shaun mentions in his review) you feel as if it was influenced by a David Lynch film. It also has a little bit of Night of the Living Dead in it as well, if you ask me.

Franco Macabro said...

Hey Shaun, I love Tetsuo, as you know I was going to include it on my choices but decided to put something else, so we could have a bit more variety.

Doesnt change the fact that its one of the strangest movies Ive ever seen, i agree with you, at some point you just have to stop trying to make any sense of it and just go with the flow.

The most bizarre scene for me was that scene where he is going to have sex with his girlfriend and he turns into this giant drill thing and kills her by mistake, damn, that was insane!

venoms5 said...

I can say I've never seen ERASERHEAD. TETSUO was truly a bizarre movie. Miike's FULL METAL YAKUZA had something similar regarding the penis drill. Miike has done some totally off the wall movies, too.

Simon said...

Eraserhead is awesome. That is all.

Franco Macabro said...

Hey Venom, I own Full Metal Yakuza, all I can say is that its a fucked up version of Robocop, mixed with Japanes gangsters. It was early Miike, when he wasn't working with huge budgets yet. But it had that Miike craziness to it....but Miike can get ever more Bizaare, Ive chosen one of his films for this'll have to wait and see which one it is though.

Shaun Anderson [The Celluloid Highway] said...

Yes the list wouldnt be complete without David Lynch in there somewhere. ERASERHEAD is a difficult film too enjoy, but the imagery is so strong and the atmosphere and tone so pervasive that it represents a very unique viewing experience.

venoms5 said...

I kind of had a feeling you were gonna include one of his movies on this list, Francisco. There's so many bizarre ones to choose from. The man has directed at a pace that would make Jess Franco blush. One of the last things I saw from him was an episode of ULTRAMAN MAXX he directed. I hated his DJANGO movie, though. I need to sit down and watch ZEBRAMAN, I heard good things about it.

Franco Macabro said...

@Shaun: Ive grown to enjoy ERASERHEADS crazy atmosphere and visuals, it is an unsettling film, but its message is quite clear and valid. I love to see my friends reactions when I show it to them. Lynch had to figure on to this countdown one way or another (we've even mentioned his influence on a couple of other films on this countdown) so i could not leave him out.

@Venom: Zebraman huh? I'll need to give that one a watch soon. I went through a Miike phase where I rented many of his films, but the guy has directed so many film so quickly, Im amazed at how much quality he maintains in his work even though he films so much so fast!

I loved his participation in 3Extremes, his episode appeared more restrained when compared to the other two (Dumplings!?? Arrggh!) but it was still quite bizarre and shocking.

I enjoyed parts of Django, but it got a bit confusing. It was a visually beautiful film, but a bit hard to follow.

I Like Horror Movies said...

I dont feel any bizarro list could be complete without making mention of either of these films. They are each so twisted and nightmarish in so many ways, great to see them near the top gentlemen!

Franco Macabro said...

And in a strange way, they are related because Tetsuo has some elements from Eraserhead. The pairing of these two films on the countdown happened by chance by the way!

Reina said...

Hey Franco...what about the chickens?? hahahahhha, to me thats the weirdest part, I know how much you loooove this movie, to me is was obvious it was going to be in this bizarro film countdown...I want to see that Tetsuo movie..seems crazy!

Franco Macabro said...

How's about this, I'll get it just so you can watch it.

Reina said...



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