Teruo Ishii was a great director. While working within genre films usually doesn't earn you much artistic credibility, Ishii managed to gain the respect of his peers with his enthusiasm, imagination, and resolve to remain in control/independent for much of his nearly fifty year film career. He tackled most everything, from superhero/monster movies, to biker films, prison films, torture, samurai, gangster, sci fi, and karate flicks. Not content to rest on his laurels, he was still scraping together money and making films well into his eighties.
The last three films before his death in 2005, Screwed (1998), Jigoku, and Blind Beast Vs. Killer Dwarf found Ishii in a very experimental mood. Each film delivers a delirious approach to the material: Jigoku a modern re-imagining of Nobuo Nakagawa's horror classic, Blind Beast Vs. Killer Dwarf an adaptation of the writings of Edogawa Rampo, and Screwed an adaptation of manga by Yoshiharu Tsuge.
Tsuge (Tadanabu Asano- Ichi The Killer, Last Life in the Universe, Vital, Café Lumiere) and Kuniko (Miki Fujitani) have been living together for two years. The couple has largely scraped by while Tsuge has unsuccessfully looked for work as a manga artist/writer. They lose their apartment. Kuniko gets a job and room at a dorm while Tsuge is briefly homeless until he gets a room with a kind, virtual stranger.
After he watches her being chummy with a childhood acquaintance and finds some condoms in her purse, Tsuge begins to suspect Kuniko of infidelity. She confirms his suspicions and shatters his ego by claiming she became pregnant after a one night stand with a random dorm dweller. This sends Tsuge onto a disjointed odyssey of angst and mental anguish. Where does it take him? Well, everywhere from failed suicide, to an undignified stay at dingy hospital, to a trip to a countryside inn, and a jaunt to the seaside to visit a one night stand that leads to a jellyfish sting and a hallucinatory ride into his fragile psyche.
Screwed operates on a snowball effect of weirdness. Things start off pretty normal, and get increasingly strange and surreal, until a capper of a final fourth where any semblance of reality is lost. The substance of the film is the comic and the hormonal. For instance, after his failed suicide via sleeping pills, Tsuge is left in a deep doze, yet still tries to keep his pants up when the nurse tries to removes them, and then has an embarrassing, messy endless urination with the same nurse acting as an aide. As he wanders looking for a doctor after his jellyfish sting, he envisions a town of nothing but eye doctors. And it gets even weirder with all of the scenes involving some form of comic-sexual bizarre happenings. It's a man's tale. The screwed of the title, seems to be man screwed by his desire and hangups when it comes to women. Lack of self assurance coupled with animal brain lust. Man, the hunter, the emotional wreck, stumbling after a piece of tail.
Despite my love for the surreal, I thought the film worked best in its earliest and middle moments. Though it sort of spirals out of control, luckily Tadanabu Asano is an engaging, charasmatic actor to have as a lead. And, there is plenty of boobage. Ishii loved some boobage. God (or who/whatever) bless his wonderfully twisted soul.
The DVD: Panik House.
Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. It is obvious Ishii was using some pretty basic video for this film. As such the image is pretty weak, often soft, and suffers from some common video quirks like hue bleeding and macro-blocking. The use of heavy filters, mainly of an orange tinge, also further muddies the image. The trasnfer is probalby a decent job considering the state of the source.
Sound: 2.0 Stereo, Japanese language with optional English or Spanish subtitles. Pretty weak audio track. Again, most of this seem to be source-based, lots of overdubbing (perhaps entirely made WOS/without sound) and a general tinniness.
Extras: Sticker insert.-- Production Notes.-- Poster & Still Gallery. -- Excellent Cast and crew Bios.-- Trailer (+ more). -- DVD ROM Comic-to-film still comparison.
NOTE: Maybe it was just my screening copy, but I got no sticker insert like it states on the back cover and I could not get the DVD ROM feature to work on two different drives.
Conclusion: Well, in a storied career of wild features, Screwed is at best, a middling work, and aged director working with limited means in the twilight of his career. Still, for those who enjoy the surreal and odd, it is a nice little film, maybe best reserved as a purchase for fanatics (Ishii fans, Asano fans) and a rental for everyone else.