Studio: King Records
Director: Yoshihiro Nishimura
Writer: Yoshihiro Nishimura, Sakichi Sato
Producer: Yukihiko Yamaguchi, Tomoharu Kusunoki, Yudai Yamaguchi
Stars: Yoji Tanaka, Yurisa, Takumi Saito, Miyuki Torii, Yota Kawase, Seminosuke Murasugi, Masanori Mimoto, Takashi Nishina, Tomori Abe
A lonely man’s life is thrown into chaos when alien parasites turn a city’s average citizens into kill-crazy cyborg creatures.
Film festivals are fantastic places to mingle with like-minded fans, shoot the cinematic breeze, and if you’re so inclined, binge on booze. SXSW in particular is populated by so many sponsored day parties that loading up on complimentary alcohol prior to a screening is often a hard prospect to resist.
Like anyone, I try to never repeat a mistake. However, it admittedly took more than one experience to finally accept that seeing a movie while inebriated is generally not a good idea.
I was so worn out from 12 hours of activity before the SXSW 2015 premiere of “We Are Still Here” (review here), I was surprised I still ended up with eight pages of notes afterward. I was not surprised they were all illegible and I had nearly no memory of the movie.
You might think I would have learned my lesson later that year at AFI Fest when “Southbound” (review here) played. You would be wrong. The combination of cocktails during dinner beforehand and sitting still in a dark theater put my head in a hazy fog that didn’t clear until house lights came up over end credits.
That’s why I don’t do that anymore. So when it came time for the midnight premiere of “Meatball Machine Kodoku” at SXSW 2017, I made sure I had barely a buzz all day and put over six hours distance between my last beer and the film’s start.
At least, I thought I did. Now I can’t quite be sure what happened.
The screening started with a video introduction from director Yoshihiro Nishimura in which he suggested through a translator that his movie would be best enjoyed while smoking marijuana. Nishimura was on the right track, but riding the wrong train. Marijuana is nowhere near a strong enough drug to tune into “Meatball Machine Kodoku’s” uniquely bizarre frequency. The further into the movie I made it, the more I questioned if I was in fact drunk after all, if the movie was somehow making me drunk, or perhaps I wasn’t as drunk as I needed to be to comprehend the increasing absurdity of the insanity onscreen.
“Meatball Machine Kodoku” is a sequel of sorts to the 2005 film “Meatball Machine” (review here), which in turn is a remake of a 1999 movie with the same name. I opened my review of the 2005 film by saying, “you could make a game show out of people watching ‘Meatball Machine’ and challenging contestants to be first to describe what the plot is. The problem is that it would be almost an hour before anybody buzzed in with a guess.”
Well, “Meatball Machine Kodoku” makes its predecessor look completely coherent by comparison. I can’t even turn my notes into a useful synopsis that accurately summarizes the “story,” though as near as I can tell, it’s essentially the same as the first film’s. Basically, a lonely man named Yuji longs for romance with bookish girl Kaoru while struggling through everyday life until alien parasites suddenly turn people into robot/creature hybrids. These ‘necroborgs’ then fight each other to the death in spectacularly gruesome fashion.
As for anything more specific than that, see if you can make sense of these plot beats taken from my notebook. These aren’t all of them, but they are in chronological order, if that helps:
Giant water bottle floating to Earth.
Getting lap dances from dwarf stripper at nightclub.
Cop gives chase when he threatens to hit kid.
Red hair guy gets killed during sex.
Another guy’s dick is cut off.
Painting women turn into attacking orbs.
Samurai and someone are getting asses f*cked.
Good guy watches bad guy take parasite out of victim and snort it.
Cops storm nightclub and find dead dwarf.
Man with breasts fighting samurai cops.
Kaoru is naked, riding a man while glasses guy is dragged behind.
Bad guy firing nipples at others.
Woman puts hand on dome and words go up in the sky.
Giant potato rises up and starts firing on city.
Spaceship does energy drink commercial and flies away.
Someone else who has seen this film can confirm I didn’t dream any of this. I know I was there. Yet reading back on the above, this doesn’t even sound like a real movie.
I’m tempted to consider a second viewing to see if a fully fresh mind can piece more of it together. Except “Meatball Machine Kodoku,” however much fun it might be for some in the moment, isn’t necessarily something you want to experience more than once.
Truth is, “Meatball Machine Kodoku” isn’t meant to make much sense. It’s meant to be a midnight movie gore extravaganza with excessive grunting in place of dialogue, boobs (some of which function as bullet-firing weapons) instead of storytelling structure, and buckets of blood occupying the entire second and third acts. As far as these goals go, “Kodoku” kicks all three square in the groin as hard as it can.
Damn near indecipherable from beginning to end, the movie celebrates manic madness to the nth degree, precisely as intended. It’s the kind of crazy that plays well for fans eager to see odds and ends from dark corners of Japanese pop cult cinema devoured in a blender and sprayed all over the screen. Essentially, “Meatball Machine Kodoku” is like a feature-length version of one of those clip show obscurities that plays before an Alamo Drafthouse screening.
On a scale of head scratch to shrugged shoulders, “Meatball Machine Kodoku” scores two upturned palms and one deeply furrowed brow. Since an image of a question mark is an invalid rating, I’ll white flag the film’s review score at 50/100. I can’t decode my own reaction to the movie, so I can’t imagine being much help to you either. Beyond that, I don’t know what else to say other than that in this exceptional case, staying sober might actually be a mistake.
NOTE: The film’s Japanese title is “Kodoku: Mitoboru mashin.”
Review Score: 50