Sunday, June 04, 2006

Erasing my Head with Demon Beasts

So my wife was a sweetie and gave me an early Birthday present 2 days ago, something I wrote about earlier. About my packaging fetish about how sad a bastard I am. Turns out I was wrong: the Eraserhead Deluxe package is actually 8" square, and thicker than a standard DVD keepcase. Cool as that may be, it actually gives me another reason to hate it: I can fit a keepcase on my shelf. A keepcase is about 7.5" tall and about 5.375" wide. If I were to stick that 8 inches of packaging pleasure on my shelf it'd stick out over the edge and then some. Don't get me wrong, if I had it I'd find a way... I own LD's, and those bastards are ANYTHING but small. But screw the box: what about the film itself?

I'll be honest and say that while I like Lynch's films, I haven't seen nearly enough of them. Sure, I've seen his short films and the cinema version of Mulholland Drive. I've watched his epic mangling of Frank Herbert's Dune, and I adore his treatment of The Elephant Man. All the same, I've never seen Twin Peaks, International Velvet or so many of the other films in his career that his fans get a hard-on for. All the same, the first Lynch film - not to mention the first surrealist film I ever happened upon - was ERASERHEAD, a film I saw about the age of 12 or 13. A film which blew my mind wide open more than anything else I had ever seen before, and while I think Jodorowsky beats out Lynch in sheer "WTF?!"-itude, Lynch is doubtless a master who uses cinema selfishly and beautifully. He doesn't tell stories. He paints pictures of concepts, feelings. He creates surreal worlds - even in his more "normal" narratives - in which time, space and interaction is almost meaningless. You need to look beyond what happens in David Lynch movies and ask what each thing means. I know it sounds pretentious, like I'm looking for things that aren't there, but when you're handed a film that doesn't have a conventional story or style - or indeed even a story at all - what else can you do?

At it's surface, Eraserhead had something of a story... the story of a man who's miserable life inside of his appartment is almost devoid of human contact, apart from his girlfriend he doesn't see often enough and the sultry woman across the hall. He spends much of his time working as a printer, or starring off in to his radiator dreaming of a better life. But everythjing changes when his girlfriend's family invites him to dinner, and reveals that he's the facter of a premature baby... a nightmarish little puppet who resembles a dead fish wrapped in bandages who spends all of it's time crying. His girlfriend leaves him, unable to deal with the crying mutant spawn, and he's left alone with the child who slowly and surely drives him insane until he believes that suicide - and bringing his child with him - is the only logical answer.

...at least, that's what I think the movie's about. Seriously, this is the strangest thing I've ever seen, and it's no wonder that at the ripe age of 13, I was not only freaked out of my head by it, but that I also fell in love with cult films of all sorts. At that time I didn't stop and say to myself, "he had a child out of wedlock, so the scenes of him pulling featus after featus out of his girlfriend must be a symbol of self-loathing and paranoia about his past and future sins". No, all I did at the time was think "what, the, FUCK man?!" The film is now 29 years old, and is both as strange and wonderous as it always has been: the special effects for The Baby, though now clearly a puppet on the remastered widescreen DVD, is still a nightmarish little freak that looks far too much like a featus for any rational comfort. We know it's a puppet of somekind: that doesn't mean it doesn't freak me the hell out.

More importantly is the fact that after nearly 30 years, Lynch simply will not talk about the symbolism that's clearly the central story of the film. What does it all mean anyway? While I've yet to watch the 85 minute documentary included on the disk (but I will, probably in the next day or two) , it's mostly about the production history and how the film got made, rather than why. As dangerous as this is to it's audience, it's also the best thing for it. David Lynch is a peculiar director in many ways. For one thing, DVD's of virtually all of his films don't have chapter stops. This is clearly an intentional descision, one to try and sit down and watch and entire film in one sitting, as you would in a cinema. Another problem is that he tends to say absolutely nothing regarding his films, either before or after it's release. My theory - one I can only assume - is that he doesn't want to make the films easy for the viewer. I don't doubt that, much like Jodorowsky's cinematic streams of insanity, every sequence means something to Lynch. But we're not Lynch. We don't have his memories, his eyes, his thoughts. Whatever the hypnoic scene of The Baby screaming means to Lynch, it couldn't ever mean the exact same thing to us. So he lets us make up our own minds. While it seems almost infuriating at first, this is probably the only way to go. Lynch creates cinematic art to be enjoyed by those who want to decide what it means. If he tells us what it means, what's left to discover? Much as there are times where I feel his artistic soul becomes that of a slightly arrogant ass, I don't for a second believe he's full of shit (or even just on crack, like some film makers I love): I think he truly is an often misunderstood genius.

Oh yeah. If you have any interest in surrealism, pick it up. It's only $20, and the remastering process - which makes this film look almost brand spanking new - took 2 years of frame by frame editing. If that's not worth the wait, nothing is.

Trouble is he makes it a point to not be understood, so what are we supposed to assume of him? All I know for sure is I like his flicks, and I can't wait to pick up the Short Films DVD. And maybe Twin Peaks, if we ever get the second goddamn season released.

- Just watched the 85 minute (!) STORIES documentary last night. Nope. He doesn't tell us a damned thing about why he made the film, or how he pulled it off. He tells all sorts of cool stories about the production staff, and how he'd smuggle apple pie in to cafe's, how he had to get a steel cat out of a glass jar and even about rescuing 5 Woody Woodpecker dolls from a gas station (...have I mentioned the guy's either am honest to God clairvoyent, or on waaaaay too much crack at all times?), but not a word about what it meant, or how The Baby was made, or even what he wants people to know about the film. STORIES is just that: Stories about the making of Eraserhead. It also has lots of stills from scenes cut after the disasterous cinema premier (and the menu is a loop from the most disturbing scene shot for it and later cut) and even shows some primitive video footage from the mid 70's of rehersals, but overall it's something you should watch because you want to know HOW crazy art-house cinema is made. Not why.

Also, for shits and giggles (and to tide me over 'till I can go crazy at Deep Discount's bi-annual sale) I picked up Lynch's DUNE today. It's a DVD-18, in other words dual-sided and dual-layered. Which isn't a good thing, since these DVD's tend to be shoddily pressed and will often skip or lock up seemingly at random. Still, if it fucks up I can fix it with CDCheck, and the R1 release is in a truly boss steelbook (or, steelpack, or whatever the official US word for these armor plated plastic DVD cases are) which features a gorgeous full color design, thusly pounding the ever living crapola out of NSM Records' German releases of Anthropophagous and Cut And Run, which were formerly the most innovative and badass DVD packages known to man. They're still cool, sure... but you can't beat a full color steelbook. Seriously, why do they always keep them that brushed silver color? To prove they're metal or something? Shit, guys, we know.

The real question is wither or not Lynch's DUNE will be as cool as I think it could be in widescreen and remastered, or if it'll be the same unfocused confusing mess everybody else in the world thinks it is. Dune was the odd man out in Lynch's career as a whole, the one time where the film he made was more epic than personal, and where the studio cut truncated whatever vision he may have been going for entirely. All I know for sure is that he hasn't said a single word about the theatrical cut (not even "I hate it" - he'd probably bitch slap you for even mentioning it), but he removed his name from the extended 3 hour version that was played on cable entirely, and said it's script was written by "Judas Booth". That's always a good sign.

But fuck Lynch for just a second, let's talk about Maeda. Part of that epic 30 pounds o' pr0n I was given was all 6 sides of the deluxe DEMON BEAST INVASION (Injuu Kyoushitsu) MEMORIAL COLLECTION, which puts the original and first sequel series of MAEDA Toshio's... interesting tentacle shows all in one spot. For those who don't know Maeda by name, he's "the guy who created La Blue Girl and Legend of the Overfiend". He's a God by all rights, for having created the manga from which Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend, Sex Crime Investigator Koji, and Gedou Gakuen: BLACKBOARD JUNGLE (aka Nightmare Campus) would later be spawned from. His manga is mostly good stuff, taking hios ttraditional illustration background in to a a funky 50's EC Comic Book art style and combining it with out of control eroticism which ends up creating humanoid mutants with tentacle phalli who do naughty things to human (and other) women. While often credited with having created tentacle hentai, animation beat him to it with the Uchiyama Aki OVA's, but there's no denying that his most famous works - Urotsukidoji and La Blue Girl in particular - changed the perception, in Japan and the world, about what anime was and could be.

Demon Beast Invasion (or INJUU KYOUSHITSU, if you prefer) was a series that began vaguely based on a few Maeda manga, including Injuu Kyoushitsu and Oni Hunter, one of many supernatural monster-rape stories that was never animated, and thus was forgotten 'till one maniacal friend of mine started buying every Maeda manga in sight and Torrenting them all over them thar' interwebz. Go Nagai too, but that aside: the story is basically just a porno edition of MEN IN BLACK, though having been released in 1990 it beats the somehow lovable Barry Sonnefeld comedy film by a good 7 years. Go figure. Injuu (Immoral Beasts - in other words, Tentacle Monsters) come to Earth to impregnate the women so that they will give birth to a new race of human/injuu hybrids, which will in time thin out the unneeded (male) populace so they can move in and take over the Earth's natural resources for their own. Or such was the plot I got from watching the first 2 episodes without any translation: if I'm totally off, I'll give somebody a cookie. The first episode introduces us to a more or less likable highschool kid who runs in to (literally) a crazy mofo injuu hunting MIB - a short and kinda' scary looking guy who can eat a whole grocery bag's worth of food and talk at the same time, charming - who hunts down the evil rape machines and blasts the crap out of them with his Noisy Crick- er, mini ray gun thing. But it's not enough, and soon he enlists the help of Likable Highschool Kid, who can not only use his Manly Tears of Justice (TM) to become a glowing god of energy and power who can beat down the injuu with his fists, but can turn his ray gun in to a lightsaber handle AND can have sex with his girl and convert that orgasm energy that destroys the injuu and leaves both of them feeling satisfied. Fuck flying and X-ray vision and super hearing and whatever, THAT'S the super power I need!

Anyway, the first 2 episodes of Demon Beast Invasion are... well, pretty fucking wretched. Sure, not every anime based on a Maeda manga is theatrical quality stuff like Urotsukidoji, but the "animation" in the first 2 episodes (though they posessed a lot more motion that stuff like Injuu Kyoshi: Angel of Darkness) were just plain UGLY. Flat animation, clunky rounded character designs, bad paint splattered backgrounds during the tentacle rape scenes... while far from the worst tentacle show ever made, these two episodes are far below Maeda's usual standard that if his name weren't in the credits I wouldn't even believe it. Not to say everything Maeda's done has been perfect: Koji is an amazing technical and stylish feat but woefully incomplete piece of storytelling, La Blue Girl starts off being incredibly cheap and goofy but more or less made up for it in the sequels which were each better looking and more endearing than the one before it (though with progressively less pr0n, the one glaring flaw in RETURNS), and even the injuu designs - something both Maeda and the animators who choose to ignore his manga entire usually have fun with - were so derivitave and unimpressive in these first 2 episodes that, aside from a kawaii little Injuu faced tentacle, the show might as well have been a spoof of his better works. I was pretty much done, but trying desperately to meet a deadline, I popped in episode 3... and holy HELL did the show take a turn for the better.

Episode 3 opens - rather than with 6 minutes (...) of recap footage - with three beautiful alien ladies descending to Earth to put the smack-down on a new breed of Demon Beasts. That having been said, we still have Likable Highschool Kid and his now WAY cute girlfriend to kick around, but said Girlfriend gave birth to an Injuu in episode 2, who's returning this episode to be with his mother once and for all. But he's not alone: the Injuu seem to have developed the power to dissapear and reappear near masturbating or otherwise horny women, for some reason, and do their thing spreading the not-so-wanted tentacle love the way they like to do. Not interested in impregnating anything, the heroine's monster baby decided to sap the women dry of their energy and becomes a skyscraper sized bag o' love, who's detirmined to make mother a part of his body, so he'll never be without her again.

This is EXACTLY the kind of crazy shit we're supposed to watch tentacle porn for. I'm not sure what to expect with the next 3 episodes, nor do I know if I'll ever get the rather foul taste of the first 2 out of my mouth, but if the show keeps the level of quality at the level OVA 3 had to offer I'll buy the US box set just to see the action without any censorship. (The first 2 episodes had those lovely glowing crotches, so there was nothing to censor anyway.) That having been said, I'm going to go watch more crazy tentacle porn and hope that it doesn't suck out loud again.

Oh. And try COCA-COLA BLA'K if you can find it. Or, Black or Blaque or whatever it is. Cola and Coffee shouldn't taste good together. There's absolutely no excuse for them to. But, they do. Real good.

1 comment:

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