As a die-hard Miike fan, I was severely disappointed when I got my hands on Tom Mes’ long-awaited book, Agitator: The Cinema of Takashi Miike. While it proved to be the only complete resource into the cult filmmaker’s lengthy oeuvre, Mes’ stilted essays made the read a literal chore. The author would continually plod along like the world’s most boring film professor, nit-picking his way through scene-by-scene descriptions of each film while redundantly pointing out all the reoccurring themes. While there was little doubt that he had a great understanding of Miike, the end product felt more like a boring tech guide than a celebration of a maverick artist.
Ironically, Miike provides the introduction to Mes’ follow-up, Iron Man: The Cinema of Shinya Tsukamoto. Being a big fan of the Tetsuo director, I approached this one with a healthy dose of skepticism. Thankfully Mes keeps his dull critiques to a minimum, opting for a more biographical approach; and the result makes for a far more entertaining and informative read.
Utilizing interviews with the filmmaker and his collaborators, Iron Man provides us with a behind-the-scenes view of life and art, describing Tsukamoto’s upbringing (he got his start directing commercials with LaToya Jackson), personal battles (the Tetsuo shoot cost him most of his friends), and numerous anecdotes (including a strange visit with Alejandro Jodorowsky and a collaboration with Trent Reznor).
Each of the director’s eight features (from Tetsuo to Vital) is represented, and while Mes provides us with his usual reviews, they’re mercifully brief and to the point. We even get a little love for the underrated Hiroku the Goblin. Tsukamoto himself chimes in at the end of each write-up with his own personal feelings on each title (one of many features I wish had been included in Agitator). The book concludes with a look at Tsukamoto’s acting career as well as a stinger for Tetsuo III that will have fans salivating.
With Iron Man Tom Mes has clearly evolved as both a writer and a journalist, and I hope he takes this approach with future titles. This is a must read for Tsukamoto fans and aspiring filmmakers alike as it offers an intimate look into the mind of a truly original artist.
Iron Man: The Cinema of Shinya Tsukamoto
By Tom Mes
FAB Press, 2005
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