Perfect Tetsuo

May 26, 2010

Tetsuo: The First Cut (Japan, 1989 / 2010)

Just prior to the Japanese opening of the re-edited Tetsuo: The Bullet Man director Shinya Tsukamoto released a celebratory (cash in) version of the original black & white cyber punk classic. Hidden inside a book / dvd combo, titled Perfect Tetsuo, it contains a never before seen 77 minute cut of the film. That marks a total of 10 minutes of new footage in the salary man’s frenetic transformation into metal junk.

Tetsuo: The First Cut is mainly service for fans, a curiosity product without major practical value. As exciting news as extended Tetsuo might be, it is, in fact, a lesser cut than the one that hit theaters in 1989. A quick look reveals that rather than inserting many new scenes Tsukamoto has mainly extended existing ones. Examples would include additional factory shots before the opening title, the main character making a brief stop on the streets during his metro escape, and an extended video tape sequence. Detailed comparison of the differences shall be left for hardcore fans, though.

The problem is as follows. The theatrical cut was a showcase of visceral energy and pacing. This is what made the film a classic – even though Tsukamoto was basically following the path of his predecessor Sogo Ishii. The extended edition tones it down by a notch, and gives the viewer more breathing time. Rather than being more insane than ever, the new Tetsuo feels somehow more restrained. Even with pacing issues ignored, one can question whether these small glimpses of new footage really contribute anything of importance to the film.

Technical presentation is slightly problematic. The audio, which is one of Tetsuo’s major assets, is presented in clean mono that is, however, perhaps slightly lacking punch. The wonderful 5.1 remix found on the Italian Raro Video on the other hand rocks the walls out without replacing the original sound effects. In terms of video, the roles are reversed, however. If you thought Tetsuo was forever marred with compromise video presentation, think again. Here the film is presented with sharp transfer that comes with solid contrast levels. It blows Raro Video’s transfer out of the water like a DVD would put a VHS into shame. And rumors tell Raro Video was already superior to the English subtitled US and UK releases.

A more valuable than the re-edited film is the 160-page book that was, of course, intended as the main product. It comes with behind the scenes photos, storyboards, cast and director interviews, video release covers, special effects articles, and much more. All there Tetsuo movies have been given equal amount of exposure in the book’s black & white and color pages. Naturally, it’s all written in Japanese. For language impaired Iron Men Perfect Tetsuo’s book value is questionable. For Japanese reading fan it’s a purchase worth a consideration, although the 5460 yen price tag is a bit high indeed.

The set comes in a hardcover case that holds the book and the dvd. The dimensions are approximately 26 x 18 x 3 centimeters. The dvd is packed in a standard dvd case, rather than paper sleeve. Size considered, it would have been a nice gesture from the publisher to slip in a folded poster, but no luck here.

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