964 Pinocchio / Rubber’s Lover (DVDs)

Art house, surreal, underground, experimental. All these words have a place in the post-viewing vernacular of anyone who watches these two films by Shozin Fukui: 964 Pinocchio and Rubber’s Lover, recently released on DVD by Unearthed Films. Both of these films exude the elements of fringe filmmaking at their finest, but the issue here is not what kind of films these are but why would a horror fan want to watch and/or own them?

Well, that’s a question that’s not easily answered.

964 Pinocchio and Rubber’s Lover came from the mind of Shozin Fukui, a director with a statement to make about the potential extremes that the human psyche can endure. Both films stem from a philosophical question that Fukui came up with for himself to answer. He wanted to know what would happen to a dominant power, innate to all people, when mental anguish exceeds the physical capability for pain.

Neo Time: “Whoa!”

Basically, if I understand Shozin’s question correctly, he is interested in what happens when someone is subjected to enough physical and emotional torment that, instead of dying, instead of giving up, this being decides to evolve. Both movies are about extremes in an evolutionary sense. Basically, if one is placed under enough stress, something will happen. This is right out of Darwin’s Origin of the Species. The principles (environmental stressors) applied here indicate change (evolution) is needed, and Fukui is interested in WHAT KIND of change will happen in two very different sets of circumstances. Thankfully (or not) he decided to use a camera instead of a Petri dish to answer this. The results were as follows:
964 Pinocchio: We are shown the story of a male sex android set loose in the world with no memory. This simple creature, with no real cognitive functions, is left to stumble and experience blindly a world that does not care and actually seems to hate the creature for its innocence. The situations upon this being become so extreme it is forced to try to escape, defend itself, and ultimately change . . . but into what and why?

Rubber’s Lover: Here we see the story of a group of scientists who take a human being and subject him to a series of “tests” in which they are trying to determine the effects of ether and a D.D.D. (Direct Digital Drive), a device that bombards the subject with an intense sound. The subjects have not reacted well to the testing it seems until one day a new subject is brought in. Unable to flee or defend himself, the change is much more severe; and in the end the scientists are forced to face the consequences of their experiment in its brutal and deadly new form.

Both of these films are quite unconventional. Sounds and images create a fusion of moments of experience for the audience. It is a subjective and varying experience as with most films of this nature. Some may be touched by the plight of the android, and others may be able to grasp all the implications during the final half of Rubber’s Lover. Or you may sit there and say, “What the hell was that?” It is art at its best, the reptilian core of film.

Which brings me to the reason why (or why not) horror fans might want to possess these films. They are firmly rooted in genre material. For as much as the director does not like genre categorization of his films (which he expresses in the interviews included on the discs), he must surely understand that when the moviegoing public sees them, most people will think they are science fiction.

Sci-fi and horror share a lot of similar qualities, but in the end, they are fundamentally different. Horror deals with personal issues, while sci-fi tends to work on a larger scale. Horror looks inwards at dynamics, while sci-fi looks out and towards tomorrow. Yet, when the two do mesh, they have given us some of our most unforgettable films. Alien and John Carpenter’s The Thing are two of the best examples of using both horror and science fiction elements to create an effective framework for a film. Both 964 Pinocchio and Rubber’s Lover do this also, but the effectiveness of the story depends a lot on the viewer, as well as the film, and neither of these two films are accessible to all people.

Visually and contextually the films are disturbing. They deal with a lot of extreme emotion: malice and contempt with compassion for Pinocchio and scientific disinterest dashed with S&M for Rubber’s Lover. Both show the dearest extremes that I think any movie can. Some people may be physically revolted or feel nothing at all. Some may become saddened, and some may simply dislike two films that have little dialogue, a lot of weird pictures, and a bunch of actors screaming, screeching, singing, repeating, or gurgling their lines. It can be quite disassociative for someone if they are unprepared for the experience.
On the recently released DVDs are interviews with the director himself, each offering a different look into a man who seems to have a lot more to say than what he got down on film. Fukui seems uncomfortable sitting in front of the camera, but as soon as the discussion begins about his work, he opens up and blossoms out information. The interviews can be of use for individuals who feel lost from the context of the film; Fukui is not at all afraid to answer the questions people bring away from his films.

Along with the interviews, each disc contains a short film by the director. The films are visual experiments. Fukui demonstrates in both of the shorts that he is someone who is interested in sound and image and the effect of one on the other. The shorts are very obtuse and carry little or no discernable storyline at all. They are merely curio portholes into the mind of Fukui, an ex-musician, who wanted to say something to the world about all of us – but in a way not all of us will understand.

I hope this prepares you. These are interesting works, not essentially horror, but horrific enough in statement and in execution to warrant a look. Yet, be warned: These are films of the most basic nature, raw and unevolved themselves with primordial ooze silver celluloid creatures emerging from an id abyss that do not allow us to understand their secrets at no charge. Not all who look them in the eye will appreciate the change within themselves. They leave us with this question: When a movie exceeds the mental capacity of its viewer, what changes will occur in said viewer? As for the answer . . . Stay tuned.

964 Pinocchio (aka Screams of Blasphemy) (1991)
(Unearthed Films)
Directed by Shozin Fukui
Starring Hage Suzuki, Onn Chan, Kyoko Hara, Kohi Kita

Rubber’s Lover (1996)
(Unearthed Films)
Directed by Shozin Fukui
Starring Kawase Youta, Mika Zeeko, Nao Ameya, Norimizu Saitou, Sousuke Kunihiro

Special Features
Interviews with Shozin Fukiu
Short Film Caterpillar
Short Film Gerorisuto
Production Stills/Gallery

3 out of 5 each

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