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964 Pinocchio

964 Pinocchio (1991) Movie Poster
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Japan  •    •  97m  •    •  Directed by: Shozin Fukui.  •  Starring: Haji Suzuki, Onn-chan, Kôji Ôtsubo, Kyoko Hara, Rakumaro San'yûtei, Kôta Mori, Tomio Watanabe, Anri Hayashi, Kyôko Irohani, Michiko Harada, Yûko Fujiwara, Yoshimitsu Takada, Naoshi Gôda.  •  Music by: Hiroyuki Nagashima.
        Pinocchio 964, lobotomised cyborg sex slave, is thrown out onto the street by his owners because of his inability to maintain an erection. He is befriended by a criminally insane, memory-wiped, homeless girl. Meanwhile, the corporate entity who manufactured and sold him plots to kill him because of his malfunction.

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 1:55
 
 

Review:

Image from: 964 Pinocchio (1991)
Image from: 964 Pinocchio (1991)
Image from: 964 Pinocchio (1991)
Image from: 964 Pinocchio (1991)
Image from: 964 Pinocchio (1991)
Image from: 964 Pinocchio (1991)
Image from: 964 Pinocchio (1991)
Image from: 964 Pinocchio (1991)
This film is nowhere as bad as some of the reviews on here would have you believe. It makes me wonder whether some people saw it because it had 'Pinocchio' in the title and thought it might be another Disney version of the quaint old story - which I find very amusing because it couldn't be further removed from Disney. But while I generally like anything as far removed from Disney as possible, this film is by no means a forgotten classic.

It has quite a lot going for it - forceful, imaginative camera work, atmospheric lighting, furious pacing, and a strong sense of the desire for film to be experimental in pushing back boundaries. Where it flounders is in its disjointed narrative and sometimes in employing weak devices to make up for obvious plot-holes. The transformation of Pinocchio and Himiko mid-way through the film is very disjointed and the recovery of her repressed memory in no way convincing - represented in the most clichéd of ways by a series of hazy flashbacks followed by a complete character reversal. Even films which have clearly been made on a low budget like this one shouldn't need to rely on such creaky devices.

Also, the film doesn't seem sure whether it's going for serious social commentary or cyberpunk splatter-fest. At times it seems to point directly at the alienation and dehumanization of the individual in modern Japanese society - the alarming figure of a bone-white and blood-stained Pinocchio running wildly through a sea of static onlookers is particularly effective - but ultimately the simplicity of the plot, right down to the archetypal mad professor, undermines any kind of serious social critique.

If it were a film without precedent it would be remarkable, but the fact is there are equally experimental, much stronger works out there already, along similar lines - Tetsuo and Akira spring to mind. Nevertheless, I get the feeling Fukui's film has been influential on later exponents of extreme cinema. One scene in particular - where Himiko begins to regain her memory, shows her in a bare room, a body on the floor and a ringing telephone - will be a familiar image to anyone who has seen Audition. But the comparisons with Miike Takashi begin and end with a passion for shocking the audience. Where the violence of Miike's films is pointed, 964 Pinocchio is one long scream of a film - it never lets up: the visuals scream, the soundtrack screams, all the characters scream (rather than speak) their lines. It's an assault on the senses, and its relentless fury does suck you in, but there are also times when you feel it's more of an endurance test than a film... the much-touted vomiting scene is not really shocking, just extremely unpleasant to sit through - there doesn't seem to be any point, other than to revel in its own excessiveness, in making the scene so extended.

On balance, this is a minor curio of extreme Asian cinema and experimental film-making. Unearthed Films have done an excellent job with the DVD transfer and it is worth watching if you have any interest in probing the darker recesses of the Japanese underground.


Review by WraithApe from the Internet Movie Database.