Based on a little-seen Japanese anime from 1973, Kazuaki Kiriya’s Casshern is the latest film to be shot entirely on a virtual backlot, and not unlike Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, it concerns the attempts of a ridiculously attractive group of people to prevent monster machines from destroying the human race. Sometime in the nihilistic future, Eurasia’s seventh zone (don’t ask!) is too exhausted from a successful war and subsequent partying to rebuild its unhealthy infrastructure. Driven by his desire to save his wife from a mysterious disease, Dr. Azuma (Akira Terao) proposes a “neo-cell” treatment capable of rejuvenating the human body. The government nixes the project, which continues on in a secret laboratory and is thrown completely out of whack when a mega-sized lightning rod (made out of what looks like computerized metal) strikes a vat of liquid containing severed body parts and unleashes onto the world a group of inexplicably nasty humans who call themselves “neo-sapiens.” Now it’s up to Casshern (Yusuke Iseya), Dr. Azuma’s new-and-improved son, to save Eurasia from the neo-sapiens, whose fascistic abode and couture suggests a marriage of Adolf Hitler and Alexander McQueen. Casshern at times evokes Dune‘s intergalactic soap opera as filtered through the computer game aesthetic of Avalon—it’s not as amusing as Lynch’s failed sci-fi opus or metalicious as Mamoru Oshii’s “virtual reality” drama, but too ridiculous to completely dismiss. Sentimental yet frigid, the film comes with a dopey anti-war agenda that pays lip service to Orwellian themes of totalitarian mind control but, ultimately, has very little on its mind besides streaming images into our postmodern consciousness. The semiotic noise of this juiced-up virtual exhibit doesn’t exactly ask to be discerned, but the dewy allure of its imagery, the constant hum of its soundtrack (an even mix of pop tunes and classical pieces), and the methodical ebb and flow of Kiriya’s camera truly ensures that it gets inside the head.
- Kazuaki Kiriya
- Kazuaki Kiriya, Dai Sato, Shotaro Suga
- Yusuke Iseya, Kumiko Aso, Akira Terao, Kanako Higuchi, Fumiyo Kohinata, Hioryuki Miyasako, Jun Kaname, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Mitsuhiro Oikawa
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