Tuesday, July 22, 2008

ON DVD : THE MACHINE GIRL

Our introduction to Ami, "the machine girl", is through a ground-level camera shot between her legs and underneath her prep-school skirt. From here you'd expect that we'd be own our way to another male pleasing, post-Gogo Yubari pussy power flick.

But, in fact, The Machine Girl's violence isn't sexualized at all. Every kill - whether on the side of good or evil - is in defense of family. Ami's parents committed suicide after being framed for murder, and her brother was killed by a yakuza's son. What follows isn't simply vengeance, but schoolyard justice. The prep-school uniform isn't there to titillate barely legal fantasies, but to serve as a reminder of Ami's stolen innocence and frozen-in-time adolescence.

Acceptable as that set-up is, director Noboru Iguchi struggles to land an emotional punch or sustain any type of relatable language during the expository scenes. His forte obviously lies in crafting set-pieces and action around rubber hose & prosthetic limb special effects. Resting somewhere in between the splatter of Edgar Wright, Tom Savini, and Peter Jackson, Iguchi belongs to that slapstick segment of extreme gore. Further, he nails the aesthetic of Manga-core better than Tarantino did in Kill Bill vol. 1 (QT couldn't help but Americanize it).

Tetsuo : The Iron Man is an obvious touchstone here. But unlike that masterwork, Iguchi fails to follow its barely-over-an-hour time frame and power-drill kinetics of the cinematography. Tetsuo was that rare film, a work so completely aware of its singular strength that it eschewed any plot conventions that may have threatened to dilute it. (Coincidentally, Tetsuo's Shinya Tsukamoto has failed to follow his own standard as well, struggling to put out anything as winning ever since.)

Ultimately, The Machine Girl is another successful strike in the war to take back gore from the French-sadists and their American frat-boy brothers. Near film's end, Iguchi inserts some chainsaw play for one of his sideline characters. The blood sprays that follow are cathartic clownishness, and the scene helps to wipe out the crew cut fascist-feminism of Haute Tension's switchblade sister, Marie, that horror hounds still champion as some type of modern horror icon. It's time for me to write some Ami v. Marie fan fiction, put it in a wish jar, toss it in the Pacific ocean and watch it sail across the sea.

1 comment:

WaywardJam said...

Even watching this, I was not prepared for all the gallons of blood sprayed everywhere. It was fun, but like you, I thought it would have been a bit stronger in the emotion and dialog to support the insane ride.

Guess it's hard to write good dialog for someone who has their arm tempura-fried.