Tokyo Fist [1995]

Shinya Tsukamoto is most famous for his two Tetsuo films, nightmarish tales of flesh fusing with metal in a hallucinatory metamorphosis that would give David Cronenberg pause. For Tokyo Fist, he leaves the technological transmutations for a bloody bout with flesh, muscle, and self-mutilation, a domestic melodrama gone schizophrenic and emerging as a cyberpunk boxing picture: Raging Bull meets Eraserhead in an all-out sensual assault. Insurance salesman Tsuda (played by Tsukamoto himself) is a social zombie numbed by his deadening job and in a static relationship with live-in fiancée Hizuru (Kahori Fujii), but he is jerked out of his stupor when a former schoolmate turned pro boxer blows into his life. Kojima (the director's real-life brother Kohji Tsukamoto) bullies Tsuda and puts the moves on Hizuru, like a repetition of a decades-old cycle of aggression, but this time Tsuda turns to the boxing club to beat his body into a match for his once and future rival. Tsukamoto's vision of modern Tokyo is an alienated world of disconnected citizens repressing raw emotion under a social veneer of manners and passivity. Uncork the emotions, and faces are pummeled into bloody pulp, boxers broken in the ring, bodies ritually pierced and tattooed... and then it gets weird. The film runs down before the conclusion, but until then it's an unbelievably visceral ride. --Sean Axmaker

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