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June 04, 2008

The Machine Girl

machine girl 2.jpg

Kataude Mashin Garu
Noboru Iguchi - 2008
Media Blasters Region 1 DVD

It is something of a critical truism that works about sex that "leave nothing to the imagination" are inferior because of pornographic expectations that seem to come with the territory. George Steiner once famously accused pornographers of subverting the "last, vital privacy" of sex by doing "our imagining for us."

Linda Williams - Hard-Core Art Film: The Contemporary Realm of the Senses

In his latest posting, Girish refers to Linda Williams' discussion of the lack of respectability in horror, melodrama and pornography. The Machine Girl has all three in spades, although the pornography is in violence so excessive that it becomes meaningless within minutes of the slaughter of a gang of school bullies. Comparisons with porno are not inappropriate considering the close-ups of flesh and gushing fluids. As has been noted before, the basic premise of a young woman with mechanical weapon in place of a missing limb was probably inspired by Rose McGowan's character in Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror. The Japanese, as spoken by the actors in this film, has the same overly dramatic inflections of characters in Kill Bill, Vol. I. Not only is there nothing subtle about The Machine Girl, but it seems like it was designed for an audience whose knowledge of Japanese cinema was learned second-hand through Quentin Tarantino.

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The basic premise is that Ami, a very athletic high school girl, has a brother, Yushie, who for an unexplained reason owed money to a school bully and his gang. Yushie and his best friend are killed by the gang, tossed out of a building to appear like suicide. The gang leader is the son of a Yakuza chief who tries to instill his "code of honor" on the son. The Yakuza leader has his hair curled up just enough to suggest devil's horns. Even more out of control is Yakuza mom, especially when she wears her steel killer driller bra. Early on, Ami tells Yushie that violence only begets more violence, and that point is literally hammered into the audience in bloody detail.

Even though the film is based on Iguchi's own screenplay, most of the characters have less depth than those found in a comic book or video game. It is probably very deliberate that when Ami shoots down ninja, school bullies and angry parents, that it is shot to resemble the point of view of someone playing a video game.

Returning to Williams' comment about pornography, the problem with The Machine Girl is that it so detailed in its presentation of gore that when the film tries to be satirical or black-humored, the desired effect is lost. Gags involving sushi or Ami's arm dipped in tempura batter end up simply being tasteless. The kind of scene in the Canadian thriller Cube, in which a character gets finely sliced and diced into multiple cubes, is disturbing. What was shocking in the earlier film becomes a cliche in the new film. Once one's expectations are sufficiently lowered, The Machine Girl is a reasonably entertaining trifle. What Iguchi perhaps unknowingly has demonstrated is that the best screen shocks, such as The Unknown, Psycho, and even the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre always left the scariest stuff to the imagination.

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Posted by peter at June 4, 2008 12:11 AM


i see that you do not have respect for the japanese style of fantasy/sci-fi movies, or their directing, but it is in fact that quentin tarantino happens to base his style of mindless violence off of one of japans most critically acclaimed director's takashi miike, although iguchi may have used rodriguez's touch on his character,but if their movies are so lame then why is it everytime they put out a movie in japan us americans take it and totally turn it into garbage,jut like they are going to do with park chan wooks version of oldboy, which is probably one of the best movies i have ever seen, and steven spielberg is absolutely going to descimate it, when it already has a guaranteed trip to film fame just the way it is

Posted by: jesse at February 8, 2009 05:50 PM