A Cupid for the People of the World: 964 Pinocchio (1991) - Reviewed


964 Pinocchio (1991) came out during an exciting time in the Japanese indie film scene. Shinya Tsukamoto's cult classic hit Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989) blew the doors off the scene securing international attention and opening the doors for other similar style projects. Director Shozin Fukui, who directed 964 Pinocchio and later Rubber's Lover (1996), worked on the film crew for Tetsuo, very likely influencing him to delve into the world of cyberpunk body horror.

964 Pinocchio (Haji Suzuki) is the name of a cyborg sex slave who is owned by a corporation that rents him out to customers to fulfill their every desire. Unfortunately, Pinocchio cannot maintain an erection, perhaps due to his extensive reprogramming, and he is tossed out onto the streets of Tokyo by a dissatisfied customer. Alone and babbling from fear, his memory erased, Pinocchio wanders the city. He is spotted by Himiko (Onn-Chan), a homeless woman who is similarly afflicted with amnesia and an urban cartographer of sorts, making maps of the city to help out those who suffer from memory issues.

Himiko and Pinocchio become fast friends and eventually lovers. Still, their connection proves to be the catalyst for a surreal metamorphosis both literally with their bodies and metaphorically with the narrative. The first half of the film is straightforward, depicting their relationship slowly growing, but the second they connect to each other intimately, the film goes off the rails. Himiko goes through ego death as she regains her memories, shifting to an insane sociopath, torturing Pinocchio mentally and physically. Where there was love, there is now only hate and bloodshed. Perhaps there is no solace for artificial beings, their existence is a terror and an abomination. 

There is an extended scene of Himiko losing her sanity in a subway station, puking up large amounts of what appears to be overcooked oatmeal with shades of Possession (1983), and it also shares the broken relationship theme from that film. The film is filled with human and bio-organic fluids: blood, vomit, saliva, and garbage slime. Whereas Tetsuo: The Iron Man is obsessed with metal and industrial aesthetics, 964 Pinocchio is obsessed with vicious and sticky body horror and sex. The film is shot similar to other films in the genre with lots of sped up tracking shots and quick cuts, but these are interspersed with slower and quieter scenes of nature that serve as small breathers from the chaos. 

As a retelling of the fairy tale, 964 Pinocchio only uses the skeleton of the story, the idea of an artificial being that tries to understand and become more human. Horrifyingly, Pinocchio does get his wish, but when he finally transforms, he becomes an even more grotesque monster, the proper physical representation of the dark side of humanity, the monster within finally materializing on the outside for all to see. Pinoccho's final words are, "I finally see clearly."

—Michelle Kisner