Shozin Fukui

Japanese Cyberpunk - Shozin Fukui 福居 ショウジン

Johannes Schonherr

The door to tiny, dark basement Outbreak Club in Tokyo Yotsuya opened at half past midnight. It was going to be an all-night event, lasting at least until the first subways would be running again in the early morning.

Shozin Fukui, Tokyo
Shozin Fukui

The headliner of the night was Shozin Fukui's latest performance, dubbed sight296, a piece consisting of the screening of a re-worked, re-arranged and wildly altered version of his 2008 psycho horror film The Hiding, accompanied live by the screeching techno / noise sounds of digital music artist Itsuro 1x2_6.

The clip below gives a little impression of the performance. Fukui is the man to the left, Itsuro is to the right of the screen.

Tokyo Psycho Punk

Shozin Fukui moved from his hometown of Akashi, Hyogo Prefecture to Tokyo in the mid-1980's and got soon involved with the underground rock scene of the day. At the time, punk rock, performance art and film were closely interrelated. Rock musicians made films, film directors centered their works on the bands they were friends with. The bands tended to be intense, loud, wild and without any inhibitions - onstage or off.

A perfect example of the extreme energy of the scene Fukui was moving in at the time might be Sogo Ishii's Burst City (1982). This movie set the tone for things to come in Tokyo for the rest of the decade.

Soon, Fukui was behind an 8mm camera himself, directing members of his band as well as friends from small theater groups to do outrageous things on the streets of Shibuya and Shinjuku.

His short films Gerorist (1987) and Caterpillar (1988) played in the intermissions of Fukui's band's live concerts.

Gero being a Japanese slang term meaning to puke, imagine what a "gerorist" does. The "gerorist" is played by a cute actress pretending to be an aggressively unhinged girl, acting out in the subway and on busy streets in front of unsuspecting strangers.

Caterpillar goes a step further - it seems to go right into the mindset of an extremely mentally disturbed person. Though featuring no violence whatsoever, it might be the scariest film Fukui has ever made.

Cyberpunk Classics

In 1989, Shinya Tsukamoto premiered his Tetsuo - The Iron Man. The film would become the epitome of Japanese Cyberpunk, defining a whole new movie genre and introducing the world to entirely new and incredibly violent visions of Tokyo life.

Tsukamoto's film is all about the human body morphing into a machine, or, for that matter, a junk yard metal trash creature.

Tsukamoto certainly captured the spirit of the times - Tetsuo quickly became a worldwide cult movie sensation.

Fukui was onboard during production. He is credited as assistant director of Tetsuo though he later said in interviews, very humbly, that he "merely helped out a little".

Tetsuo gave him the inspiration, though, to get real himself and to move into feature-length productions.

Unlike Tsukamoto, however, who focusses on transformations of the body, Fukui concentrates on transformations of the mind, continuing to explore the subject matter of his previous short films.

Most of his characters are insane to begin with but drive themselves further and further into painful despair. Sometimes, the mental pressure lets their heads explode - depicted in graphic detail.

Flyer for a Shozin Fukui show in Tokyo.
Flyer for a Shozin Fukui show in Tokyo

In Pinocchio √ 964 (1991), Fukui's first feature, a humanoid male sex slave, the Pinocchio of the title, can't perform to satisfaction and is thrown out on the street. Walking around aimlessly, he encounters Himiko, a mysterious girl living in a warehouse. She takes him in and eventually, in the course of much abuse, triggers his memory of his own past. Pinocchio sets out to destroy his creators.

Pinocchio √ 964 is an intensely violent film, enhanced by lots of angry screaming and plenty of puking. The most memorable scene however is Pinocchio's run through the crowded streets of Shinjuku, dragging behind him the steel pyramid he is chained to.

Take a look at the trailer:

Almost immediately after the release of Pinocchio √ 964, Fukui started his next project, Rubber's Lover (1996).

While Pinocchio √ 964 played out on the streets of Tokyo, the whole plot of Rubber's Lover takes place in a tiny research laboratory. Thus, claustrophobia is added to the mental anguish of the participants in a series of torturous experiments.

The experiments are not going according to plan and the sponsoring company wants to shut them down. The mad scientists at the lab disagree and all hell breaks loose.

See the trailer here:

During the shooting of Rubber's Lover, Fukui prohibited all talking between the actors outside their scenes, in fact, nobody on set was allowed any talk beyond the most basic work-related commands.

Working with Fukui at that stage must have been incredibly intense. When asked about the further careers of the actors / actresses appearing in his movies, Fukui would usually answer that said actor / actress soon after filming moved back to the family farm [or something to that effect]. They never wanted to be in a movie again.

After Rubber's Lover, Fukui himself was drained, overcome by the intensity of his own projects.

For about 10 years, Fukui retreated from film making entirely, working as a technician for a video production company, sometimes shooting low-profile documentaries on behalf of the company.

In 2008, Fukui made his comeback as film director with the 40 minute The Hiding, a view into the mind of a woman deadly scared of leaving her tiny apartment.

His next film, S-94, a short released in 2009, depicts a post-apocalyptic Tokyo, the metropolis rendered almost empty by an aggressive virus. Two female survivors of the epidemic have vague hopes of reproducing and thus continuing the existence of the human race but when they finally make contact with other survivors, they are met by deranged cannibals.

Shozin Fukui offering chocolates at his bar in Higashi Nakano, Tokyo.
Shozin Fukui offering chocolates at his bar in Higashi Nakano, Tokyo

Shozin Fukui Today

Moon Road is a small traditional bar district in Higashi Nakano, Tokyo. Small signs down on street level indicate the tiny TV Bar Kemuri on the second floor of one of the buildings.

The Kemuri TV Bar has about 7 or 8 seats, a huge TV is playing a wild assortment of movies behind the counter. Shozin Fukui and his wife run the bar.

Shozin Fukui, the man behind the counter and the man behind some of the craziest movies in Japanese history, turns out to be a very likeable, friendly person, well versed in the details of film history and easy to talk to if your Japanese is up to the task.

But Fukui is by no means retired. Coming originally from a background in music, 1980's underground rock, he's now back at the live music clubs, screening spiced-up versions of his films to live music.

Shozin Fukui website: www.honekoubou.jp (mainly Japanese, basic information in English)

TV Bar Kemuri (TV Bar けむり)

Kemuri translates as smoke. Expect a smoky place.

Access

Subway Oedo Line, Higashi Nakano Station, Exit A1  (5 minute walk)
JR Chuo Soba local line, Higashi Nakano Station, East Exit on North Side (2 minute walk)

Opening times

Daily from 7 pm to 4 am (please note that Shozin Fukui will be often but not always present at the bar)

Address

4-2-25 Higashi Nakano, Nakano-ku, Tokyo

Tel: 03 6904 4250 (in Japanese)

TV Bar Kemuri website: http://moonroad.jp/store/store24.html
(in Japanese)

TV Bar Kemuri on google maps

Other famous Japanese actors and directors

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