ponedjeljak, 23. srpnja 2012.

Warped Forest + Funky Forest

Stiže duhovni nastavak čudesno halucinogene komedije Funky Forest - Warped Forest. Divovske djevojčice, čudno biće koje siše bradavice, šumske nimfe, leteći vremenski strojevi, steam-punk organske puške koje izbacuju pimpač koji piša... naravno.

Rejoice my brothers and sisters of the cult of Funky Forest, a second contact has been made! While Katsuhito Ishii and Aniki are not in participating in this excursion into the wild blue yonder, we have the third member of the Funky Forest directorial triumvirate, Shunichiro Miki, to guide us through the dense foliage of surreal, fleshy and hilarious delights.
So rest assured, while Ishii and Aniki's involvement will most certainly be missed, The Warped Forest will no doubt conjure up even more memorable sexual surrealism then you can shake a Cronenbergian fetus puppet at. 
And here's the Hawaii International Film Festival's write-up on the film:
“Miki brings us in a universe where giants, nipple sucking fuzzy creatures and flying time traveling devices coexist with totally normal people. This is an essential work in the new wave of radical, rainbow-coloured, hallucinogenic Japanese comedies that blend deadpan humour, delirious dream logic, creeping paranoia and empathic, easygoing optimism into the strangest of cinematic brews!” “Settle into your chair and be transported to a place both familiar and alien; where a giant shop-girl can barely fit in her store, there’s a weird green pod in every bedroom, and terrifying wood nymphs provide a heartbroken woman with the anatomically correct fruit everyone seems to covet. In the end we are left, like Alice, with the Red King’s conundrum: are we dreaming them or are they dreaming us? - twitchfilm

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A strong candidate for weirdest movie of the year, "The Warped Forest" is a sometimes hilarious, sometimes dumb, frequently grotesque but never dull excursion into a surreal parallel world where tiny people and giants coexist alongside puppet-like creature-thingies. This self-funded solo directing debut by Japanese cult figure Shunichiro Miki ("Funky Forest: The First Contact") will leave just about everyone baffled, but doesn't lack for entertainment value. Fests should check it out.
Initially, the pic appears normal as three drinking buddies talk about a strange forest they've heard about. Switching from black-and-white to color, Miki zooms into the woods where fruit grows from the limbs of alabaster-skinned nymphs and a nearby village is home to eccentrics including full-sized baker's wife Yuppo (Rinko Kikuchi, "Babel") and thumb-sized pregnant lady Makko (Mako Satoh). The passing parade of curiosities includes furry critters oozing goop and a punk girl toting a ray-gun. Beautifully designed and decorated, this one-of-a-kind pic makes no apparent sense, but is compelling in the strangest of ways. Some viewers may feel that somehow it all adds up at the end -- sort of. Effects work and other tech credits are topnotch. - www.variety.com

Warped Forest-p1.jpg

A few years ago, intrepid cinema-goers may have come across a film traversing the festival circuit entitled Funky Forest: The First Contact (2005). It was a wild, 150 minute journey through bizarre non-sequiturs, anachronistic dance sequences and disturbing scatological humour. Shunichiro Miki – one of three credited directors – gave us the most memorable moment from that film; suffice to say it involved a TV with an orifice and a Japanese schoolgirl. In The Warped Forest (2011), solely Miki’s creation this time around, we get a double dose of anatomical analogies but also a magnificent sense of whimsy that comes way out of left field.
The Warped Forest opens in black and white with a droll conversation between three Japanese men sitting around drinking sake. Very swiftly the film shifts into colour, and also what appears to be an alternate dimension. In this bizarro reality, money (which appear as chestnuts) is stored in one’s belly button; small, Lilliputian-type characters interact casually with regular sized people; guns that resemble aspects of the male anatomy are bought by young girls; trees in the shape of women bear a sweet, alcoholic fruit that appear as a cross between an apple and a vagina; and all the while, a giant upturned pyramid hovers over the village like some supernatural observer.
Needless to say, The Warped Forest is weird, but it’s a good kind of weird. What begins as a parade of relentless, Dadaist non-sequiturs slowly turns into a very clever – and tightly structured – play on the idea of blurring dreams and reality.
Shunichiro Miki has a unique cinematic voice echoing elements of Cronenberg body-horror and Gondry whimsy with a Japanese sensibility that is all his own. The Warped Forest doesn’t reach the transcendent heights of Funky Forest but it does manage to create its own wholly realized world. By the end of the film, it may not all make sense but that doesn’t mean it’s incoherent. Ultimately The Warped Forest is a genuinely sweet and wonderfully bewildering experience unlike anything you have seen before.- Rich Haridy

The Warped Forest transports you to a land with an upside down pyramid in the sky, where giants and tiny people coexist peacefully and everyone seems addicted to anatomically correct fruit. The characters become obsessed with the idea of manipulating their dreams so they can attain their wildest desires but there are rumours that to do so has dire consequences in reality. Made entirely from the director’s personal savings, it deals with one major question – is this reality or is this a dream?
It started off reminiscent of H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine, with a man desperately trying to convince his friends of a story that seems more than farfetched. It has hints of other classics too, with an Alice in Wonderland style sense of the technicolour absurdity of a world completely different to our own and Gulliver’s Travels giants and little people, but these aspects feel clumsily mashed together at times and lack the finesse of the original classics.
Most of the acting felt mostly improvised and stilted and, while I’ve enjoyed Rinko Kikuchi in other films - in The Brothers Bloom, Bang Bang was my favourite character – she didn’t grab me in this. The music was odd and in parts didn’t seem to fit at all, especially the scene where one of the characters asks another for a gay relationship in exchange for gifts.
For most of the film I was incredibly confused over what I was watching, which makes it hard to review. I am generally a Science Fiction fan but in most Sci-Fi texts, while you may not be able to relate to the world, you can form a connection with the characters and their motives. In this I felt disconnected with the characters and ultimately disinterested with the outcomes of their stories. I felt that underneath all the random, shock-value aspects – like the gun which ends up revealing a penis – there was probably a meaningful story in there, unfortunately Miki made it unnecessarily hard to access and I didn’t think it was worth the search he forced us to take to access it. - www.stickytrigger.com

For those who crave auteuristic autonomy, unencumbered by studio constraints or concerned with audience response…well, having watched The Warped Forest, you really ought to be careful what you wish for.
Entirely self-funded, visionary Shunichiro Miki, a Japanese ad-agency legend, offers up a work of glorious, often impenetrable eccentricity, multiplied by the power of ‘huh?’  You are not likely to see a film like The Warped Forest ever again and it will depend entirely upon the individual whether that will be considered a good or a bad thing.
From what I could gather (and everything you take from this film will depend upon your viewing experience, as no website or PR campaign exists to help one interpret its oddness), The Warped Forest is about a parallel world in which our souls exists to live out our longings, fears and ambitions. It is ruled over by an enormous spinning triangle that acts as a kind of ‘Dream Central’ Overlord.
Inhabitants of this strange land are giants and/or tiny people, who co-exist so as  influence each others  lives. Frustrated souls indulge in ‘dream tinkering’, an ill-advised indulgence with realistic highs but terrible lows. There is also anal/vaginal fruit that grows on naked-lady trees, a penis-gun and a large pink-and-white furry ‘blob-creature’  whose uterus-like inner-sac may hold the cure to one characters outbreak of pulsating open-wounds.
Suffice to say, the chances of The Warped Forest being adopted into a lavish Broadway musical are slim.  The Sydney Film Festival audience reaction ran the gamut; initially, there were lots of giggles at the gaudy visuals and amateurish acting (much feels entirely improvised), then there was some stunned silence, followed by some genuine investment in Miki’s vision and drama.
As programmer Richard Kuipers stated in his pre-screening introduction, The Warped Forest is a film that demands your attention and intellect, if only to decipher the indecipherable. The imagery is, at time, wondrous; at times, giddily naff. There is a sentimental undercurrent that keeps one engaged in the film (the soaring chords employed in the finale suggests the director is a softy at heart), but it is a purely visceral reaction. Nothing about The Warped Forest makes sense in terms of conventional emotionality.
Or does it? The film exists in a dream state, that most primeval aspect of human existence, so perhaps it is fitting that it feels both fleeting yet somehow resonant. Like our sleeping visions, it will be impossible to recapture fully upon reflection nor able to be fully understood. I guess it is best to just let it be what it is. Whatever that may be… - Simon Foster


Funky Forest - cijeli film:

“Only appearing in your dream.  Distorting every sound to create a world like to other.  This is what they live for; jumping from one person’s dream to another.  Once you have been chosen, you will lose all control of your dreams.”–from the script of Funky Forest: the First Contact

 DIRECTED BY: Katsuhito Ishii, Hajime Isimin (AKA Aniki), Shunichiro Miki
FEATURING:  Tadanobu Asa (“Guitar Brother”), Ryo Kase (“Takefumi”), Susumu Terashima (“Homeroom Teacher”), and a large ensemble cast

PLOTFunky Forest is a series of absurdist skits—including both computer generated and hand drawn animation segments and musical interludes—sharing some common characters and situations, thrown together in a blender.  The movie features the interwoven antics of two squabbling TV comedians, a trio of brothers who are unpopular with women, an English teacher in love with a recently graduated student who sees him as a friend only, and a school where strange bloodsucking creatures are growing , among many other threads.  The comic nonsense sketches and dreams are loosely tied together by references to visitations from “alien Piko-Rico.”

  • There is little hard information on this production that is available  in English.  Of the three credited co-directors, Katsuhito Ishii, who directed the majority of the sequences, is usually given most of the credit for assembling the collaborative project.
  • Ishii composed the animated sequences for Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, Vol. 1 (2003) and had a minor arthouse hit with The Taste of Tea (2004).
  • Funky Forest is the first movie directing credit for Shunichiro Miki, whose only previous movie credit was a small acting role in The Taste of Tea.  Miki directs commercials in Japan.  He is responsible for the “monster” segments of the film.
  • Prior to Funky Forest, Hajime Isimin (who is also known as Aniki) had released one direct-to-video comedy in Japan and worked as the musical director on The Taste of Tea.  He is responsible for the “Notti & Takefumi” sequences that contain the film’s major musical and dance numbers.
  • Funky Forest won the “Most Innovative Film Feature” award at the 2006 Toronto After Dark film festival.
INDELIBLE IMAGE:  The still of the Japanese schoolgirl with a tube jammed into her navel hooked up to a strange machine encasing a large orifice while two strangely costumed men look on, from the segment titled “Wanna go for a drink?”, has already become an iconic image on the Internet.  It’s the picture people post or email when they want to illustrate either 1. how weird the movie Funky Forest is, or 2. assuming the picture is from a mainstream Japanese soap opera, how weird they think the Japanese people in general are.
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD:  As the trailer indicates, Funky Forest‘s weird credentials are unimpeachable; if anything, this is a movie that’s almost too weird to be comprehensible, which is why it’s nice that it’s divided into small bites that can be digested independently.  It works like a surrealist version of Altman’s Short Cuts.
COMMENTS: The opening paragraph of every review of Funky Forest is where critics get their chance to deploy their metaphorical skills in a gambit to get quoted on the cover of the next DVD release, and I’m not above this temptation.  For their convenience, I’m going to bold the part that VIZ Pictures’ marketing division should consider when designing the next special edition release.  Watching Funky Forest is like peeking inside the skull of an American schizophrenic stranded in Tokyo on a three day meth and mescaline binge, nodding off into dreams and blacking out in periodic epileptic fits as he flips through the local channels at 4:30 AM, all the while unaware that aliens are attempting to jam the local airwaves with subliminal propaganda designed to prepare us for an imminent encounter with advanced beings our brains are still eons away from being able to comprehend.
Having made my bid for boxcover glory, I can now tell you what I really think about Funky Forest.  The fact is, that although the film’s wire-to-wire, maxed-out bizarreness makes it a must-hit title for dedicated weird-o-philes, it’s not the apex of the genre that some have proclaimed it to be.  It’s far too scattered a work for that sort of an honor.  Funky Forest is a series of short surreal films made by three directors and edited together into an overlong feature.  If you hear that description prior to seeing Funky Forest, you’ll probably predict a film experience that’s a lot like attending  a festival of experimental short features: the occasional standout image, brilliant touch, or unexpectedly moving moment surfacing from a sea of experimental noodles that are just interesting enough to keep you watching, but which wear out their welcome quickly.  That is basically what you get when you venture into Funky Forest, although it has a big advantage over the short film festival marathon experience due to its consistently high technical quality.
Funky Forest is a work of pure Surrealism.  With it’s steadfast refusal to make any sort of rational sense, and its use of incongruity and unexpected juxtaposition to keep us perpetually off guard, it’s in the spirit of the 1920s-1930s European Surrealist works of  Buñuel and Cocteau, although updated in modern pop colors (bright, beat-heavy pop music and theme-song introductions that evoke episodic television).  After cinema’s initial intoxication with the incomprehensible Surrealist form in long works like L’age d’Or and Le sang d’un poète (both 1930), feature length works of this sort have been largely absent from moviehouses for decades now.  The practice of the art of pure Surrealism has fled to short films by directors struggling to be noticed, and to a small core of underground filmmakers who keep the faith despite popular and critical indifference.  There are very good reasons for this trend, and Funky Forest illustrates the most important: without some sort of organizing narrative to hold our interest, the wild, bewildering cascade of unconnected images we find in a dogmatic Surrealist work can try our nerves.  Pure Surrealism works better in short films where it doesn’t try our patience; even Buñuel and Cocteau abandoned Surrealist rules as they grew as artists, moving on to Neo-Surrealist works that featured stronger narratives and organizing principles while still effectively harnessing the power of the irrational.  No matter how successful Funky Forest is in the end as art, it will always remain a laudable and welcome experiment in reviving and modernizing a film style too long abandoned for dead.
Takefumi, one of the recurring characters in Funky Forest, is an amateur DJ and mixmaster who likes to put vinyl records on two turntables at once and fiddle with the volume knobs, hoping to create unexpected synergies between the beats and melodies.  His mashup aesthetic is as good an image of what the creative forces behind Funky Forest are aiming at as anything.  Takefumi believes there is “a universe in each album” and seeks to create a “mixed-up mix” by playing them together.  The three directors here mix their talents and interests to create something new and unique, but also something that’s truly “mixed-up.”  Ishii focuses on creating absurd, mildly humorous situations with characters such as the Mole Brothers, the Unpopular with Women Brothers, and the Babbling Hot Springs Vixens.  Isimin creates the surreal dance sequences that pepper the movie.  Miki, whose work appears only in the second half, is the weirdest of them all.  He created the various monsters—a mix of puppetry and CGI, with disturbingly realistic human faces overlaid over some of his creations—that are being bred in the halls of the school.  These fleshy, breathing beasts call to mind the organic, animatronic abominations created by David Cronenberg for Naked Lunch and Videodrome.
Although Ishii directs most of the movie and comes into the project with the grandest resume, his segments can be the most tedious.  For example, the aptly named Babbling Vixens tell a series of deliberately pointless stories about alien encounters and slanted ginkgo trees.  The girls charmingly characterized by the trio of actresses as sexy professional women who are seem vapid because they’re out on a carefree lark of a holiday, but they ladies out their welcome quickly.  Frustratingly, a scheduled singles picnic is planned in early scenes and set up as an event the film might build towards, but when we get there nothing happens; the buildup seems to be nothing more an unwelcome joke at the expense of the audience.  Watching Ishii’s segments, there’s the constant suspicion that there must be some sort of clever untranslatable wordplay or parody of a Japanese cultural institutions going on that just isn’t coming across to the Western viewer; it’s hard to imagine that the subtle absurdities he relies on were meant to carry the entire comic load.  The too-infrequent segments that he created set in a milky white outer space swimming with asteroids and amoeba-like creatures are his most memorable contributions to the project, although the elongated anime cartoon “The Transfer Student” falls flat.
The two lesser known directors fare better.  Miki’s “Wanna Go for a Drink?” segment is the most successfully surreal piece of the film.  Dripping with transmuted eroticism, it seems to be the schoolgirl’s naive and confused dream of sex, complete with strangely obsequious men, the desire to be gazed upon, obscure physical rituals and spurting fluids, orifices, and eventually giving birth to a bouncing baby sushi chef.  It’s also quite funny, as the two men—one dressed as a yellow Muppet, the other in schoolboy shorts too sizes too small—frequently ignore the girl and interrupt their important ceremony to converse among themselves about trivialities.  Miki’s other sequences don’t have quite the same punch, but his creatures (which range from lobsterlike beings with huge noses and moustaches to a bunch of doll-like men who sprout like low-hanging fruit off the legs of a woman’s torso) are always interesting to look at.
Despite the inherently frightening nature of these monstrosities, it’s important to note that the characters never fear them, even when one attaches itself to the underside of a tennis player’s arm and starts sucking the girl’s blood.  The schoolchildren and staff not only accept these creatures as natural parts of their environment, but nurture them and help them grow.  There’s a small tinge of fear that we bring to the experience due to the strangeness of these inventions, but the scenes give us only the slightest nudge towards body horror and never generate undue fear and revulsion.  This is crucial, because darker imagery would upset the admirably light and comic tone of the rest of the film.  The directors deserve credit for keeping the film surpassingly odd, but never going down the dark nightmare alleyways that most weird films feel the obligation to trod.  That path, while welcome at times, has become a too well worn over the years, and its nice to see a weird film that confounds our expectation that dreamlike must necessarily equate to nightmarish.
Isimin’s dance sequences, which are like isolated music videos stuck into the picture, also supply some high points and break up the absurdist monotony.  The first one, Takefumi’s beachside dream where he is forced to dance with a series of real and animated partners, has an intoxicating J-pop sensibility at first, but goes on for one too many tunes.  The second number is more magical: Notti’s dream, in which she is dressed as a furry white creature playing classical violin in an empty forest.  As she draws her string across the bow, the violin starts making the sound of a didgeridoo.  Out of the corner of her eye she notices three nymph-like creatures, who are playing with dials embedded in mossy rocks and branches to alter the sound of her instrument.  As she plays on, electronic bleeps, elephant trumpets and tribal chants chime into a rhythmic rhapsody which rises to a frenzied crescendo, until the spell is broken when a grooving spectator’s unfortunate sneeze causes the spirits to flee.  The sequence is a wonderful blend of pastoral myth, modulated beats and hyperactive editing that works on its own and stands out from the rest of the film (and probably inspired the title).
Not only is that scene, the film’s penultimate sequence, a standout, but it should be pointed out that throughout the film the musical accompaniment—an eclectic and tasteful mix of cool jazz, dub, Japanese pop and electronica— is one of the film’s greatest assets, a selection of aural treats that helps to sustain our interest when the narrative fails to do so.  Sadly, the soundtrack is not currently in distribution; we can only hope that as the film’s cult following grows, a release will be forthcoming.
It is both depressing and heartening to hear so many critics and fans proclaim that you’ll never see anything like Funky Forest.  It’s depressing because it implies that they find Funky Forest‘s randomness to be sui generis, arising from out of nothing and nowhere.  There is a whole rich history of weird film that came before Funky Forest, not only in the Surrealism of the 1930s, but also the avant-garde experiments of the 1960s and the underground films of every era, of which people seem to be ignorant.  Could someone familiar with Buñuel, Cocteau or the wilder works of Fellini, not to mention Jodorowsky‘s relatively well-known The Holy Mountain, really believe that there was nothing quite like Funky Forest in existence?  On the other hand, the nothing-in-the-world-like-it comment is heartening, because it indicates that Funky Forest created the impression it set out to: to create a sense of wonder in the viewer.  The slowly growing Funky Forest cult suggests that there is a longing for—and more importantly, a market for—works that break the mold, that lunge forward with imagination as their only guide.  We can only hope that those people who have never seen anything like Funky Forest will be filled with a yearning to see more like it, and will look backwards to encounter the great weird works of the past, while simultaneously encouraging filmmakers to give them more new films like this one.  Funky Forest may be its own incomparable universe, but there are plenty more incomparable universes where that one came from.-  366weirdmovies.com

There is nothing that can prepare you for the weirdness that is “Naisu No Mori: The First Contact.” It is a work that defies description. Katsuhito Ishii, the co-writer and co-director of the film, is best known on these shores for the animated sequence in “Kill Bill Vol. 1,” as well as the girls + guns movie “Sharkskin Man and Peach Hip Girl” starring Tadanobu Asano. He worked with Asano again in both “Party 7” and “Taste of Tea,” the latter film taking home the Audience Award for Best Film at the SF Indiefest last year. But “Taste of Tea's” observational exploration of family relationships is a far departure from “Naisu No Mori's” non-stop whacked-out insanity. It is now clear that the gigantic disembodied heads and forehead-piercing trains found in “Taste of Tea” were just Ishii's warm-up for the Cronenbergian flesh pods, extended dance numbers, and alien body fluid expulsion that comprise his latest grab-bag of filmic weirdness.
Two men dressed in white argue comically with one another, game show style. During their banter, jarring jump-cuts and fade-to-blacks fragment any sense of cohesion. Meanwhile, in the expanse of space (space being all-white with floating white asteroids), a white blob with blue lights emanating from it changes in size and fires black-sphere projectiles at a girl dressed in a vinyl-black body suit. The girl in question is Mayo Banno, the young actress who played the daughter in “Taste of Tea,” and she is just one of several Ishii regulars who populates this film. As Hataru, she uses her mind to fire ray beams out of her forehead that eliminate the spinning spheres. Apparently, this is how Hataru relieves her boredom (instead of doing her homework), and her fantasy ends with a matter-of-fact declaration regarding studying for school: “Screw it.”
And so begins “Naisu No Mori,” where Ishii and his friends Hajime Ishimine and Shin'ichiro Miki (the other writer-directors) all appear to be saying a collective “Screw it!” to narrative form and sequential structure, not to mention conventional filmmaking presentation and tonal consistency. Rather than a film, this is more like a collaborative project unfolding as a series of shorts, animation, and music / dance performances that shift frequently among alternating groups of characters, who are introduced using intertitles and recurring theme music.
First, there is a high-school-age couple named Notti and Takefumi, who hang out and listen to music, attempt to define their relationship, and discuss the dreams they've had about each other. Then, there are the “Babbling Hot Spring Vixens” who, true to their namesake, talk non-stop about the importance of wearing fake smiles and telling amusing anecdotes to win people over. The three “Unpopular with Women Brothers” appear next. There is Tadanobu Asano, who practices off-key acoustic guitar ballads while his overweight Caucasian younger brother offers one-line feedback and chows down on Snickers bars. In the adjacent room, the eldest brother practices a ridiculous fan dance routine in the hopes of attracting women. The brother segments are mostly played for laughs, but on the whole, the introduction of these various characters and their eccentricities builds upon itself in amusing fashion, and we can clearly see Ishii in “Taste of Tea” mode, finding delight in the unique attributes of his characters at the expense of plot development or progression. After one of the vixens plays ping-pong with one of the brothers, he invites her to a “singles-picnic,” and this forthcoming gathering appears to be the event that the rest of the movie is moving towards.
But then comes Takefumi's dream, which begins with him waking up on a beach at night time. Car headlights shine in his face, gigantic speakers blast out music, and his pseudo-girlfriend Notti is dressed in a winking bird suit and striped tights. “Show me your dancing!” she demands, and what follows is a bizarre 20+ minute music-video-like exhibition with many types of dancers: small girls dressed in red devil suits with blue hearts and braided hair, a giant animated pink woman wearing pasties, and synchronized dancers in matching yellow suits with hats shaped like laced boots. In the midst of their constant dancing, there are gunshots, hair loss, an orange bug chair, voice-overs in Chinese, and Notti giving the thumbs-up or thumbs-down depending on how much each dance performance pleases her. By the time the dream ends and a three-minute intermission rolls around, the film has shifted away from idiosyncratic character moments to instead focus more on its science fiction elements that play out like an absurdist ode to David Cronenberg.
The second half of “Naisu No Mori” is like watching Japanese people in school classrooms play with the props from “Videodrome,” “Naked Lunch,” and “eXistenZ.” A series of “Homeroom!!!” segments weave together previously introduced characters with new ones, as they make speeches, goof off, and run a series of bizarre experiments utilizing the aforementioned Cronenbergian devices. These experiments involve fuzzy yellow suits with long penile appendages that need to be pulled. A school girl is asked to stick a fleshy tube into her navel, which she licks before insertion. The tube is connected to an ass-television, whose ejaculating fluids are somehow related to saving the planet of Piko-riko. The class president rubs the ultra-long nose hairs of a parasitic amoeba pod that must be tongue-licked like the reed in an oboe. Miniature men have multiple hanging tentacles that need to be stroked in order to activate them as functional musical instruments. Are you confused and/or disturbed yet? The combination of sexual imagery and flesh-colored alien forms seems to be paying homage to Cronenberg, while at the same time seriously perplexing the viewer by moving away from the character moments found earlier in the film. Each progressive sequence seems like a contest to out-weird the previous one, which is not without its built-in entertainment value, but becomes somewhat questionable as a storytelling method when strung together as a film.
Admittedly, part of the joy one receives from watching a film of this nature is the disoriented feeling of being enveloped by the madcap imagination of the filmmakers involved. When Asano-san practices air-guitar while doubling as a tennis instructor for a girl whose blood is being sucked out of her armpit by a fleshpod that opens up to reveal levitating fluid-spurting midgets…well, what else is there to say really? It's hilarious, it's undoubtedly over-the-top, but is it imaginative genius or tripped-out drivel? Audiences will most likely be divided (as the festival audience appeared to be), and while the actors attack the individual character performances with great gusto, the film is not paced properly, and its two-and-half hour length makes it often feels like it's meandering. Furthermore, the constant fluctuation between super-silliness, time-consuming music numbers, and unexplained sci-fi elements never quite reaches the delicate balance necessary to act as any kind of pay-off. It's more like a mish-mash of strewn-together ingredients that contains portions of brilliance mixed together with portions of tedium. Perhaps it's a testament to the writers that I wanted to spend more time with the primary characters and their odd attributes, or get to watch them interact with one another some more, instead of being treated to another long stretch of dialogue-free musical interludes in the funky forest where costumed DJ's spin monotonous breakbeats that add nothing to the narrative arc.
I haven't seen “Party 7,” which many find to be an incoherent mess; “Naisu No Mori” could certainly be described as such, although that would be an incomplete (if not unfair) assessment. It is a film that, despite its shortcomings, exudes style, energy, and creativity like few other films of late. To be sure, it is not in the same league as Ishii's masterpiece “Taste of Tea,” but it's unique enough to be of interest to those who make an effort to seek out unconventional cinema. If nothing else, this is truly an unconventional work. - Jungwhan Lah

The Japanese have a reputation for being entertainment extremists. Whether it's deserved or not, they tend to turn everything - their television, their music, their entire popular culture - into a mishmash of kitsch, art, commerce, and craziness. Of course, this is a decidedly Western view, the perspective of an audience on the social outside looking way past and within. Yet the concept has become so clichéd that we actually have spoofs (MXC, Super Big Product Fun Show) of such insanity. Anyone looking for a perfect example of this histrionic oriented Hellsapoppin' position need look no further than Funky Forest: The First Contact. A crazy quilt collaboration between three prominent Japanese filmmakers (Katsuhito Ishii, Hajime Ishimine, and Shunichiro Miki), this cracked comedy is like a series of sketches gone psycho. Between the CGI fantasies, extended musical numbers, hilarious high school riffs, and repeated visits with a trio of talentless brothers, we get weirdness wrapped in the bizarre, idiosyncrasy drenched in the disturbing. Sounds like your typical Tokyo treat, huh?
The Plot:
Frankly, there isn't one. Instead, we begin with a visit from the Mole Brothers, a white suited comedy team who seem more interested in insulting each other than making us laugh. Then a little girl envisions a fantasy world where she is master and homework is nonexistent. Three brothers, noted for being "unpopular with women" interact with each other in typical sibling ways, though one is inexplicably obsessed with his guitar. A former student and a young teacher play at having a fling, while the "Babbling Hot Springs Vixens" tell unusual stories of human fallibility. The previously mentioned instructor describes his dreams, while the Moles return to deliver - maternity style - their miniature friend from the orifice of an alien television. The horrors of high school homeroom are uncovered, while various polymorphous shapes and biological abominations demand intimacy and gratification. If it all sounds like David Cronenberg via Shinya Tsukamoto, you're only partially correct. Like Pee Wee's Playhouse soaked in blowfish venom, this is one filmic forest that truly lives up to its funky namesake.
The DVD:
Brilliant to look at, impossible to understand, Funky Forest: The First Contact, is like a resume reel for a group of struggling, soon to be discovered underground artists. It's a performance piece as a personal cry for help, the fever dream musings of men who should know better, understand little, and yet choose to pay attention to neither. It's experimental and exasperating, confusing and completely of its own. If you enjoy having your brain freaked as much as tweaked, if you don't care that linear narrative is addled or absent, if imagery and imagination move you - cinematically - as much as characterization and plotting, this film will definitely fit your aesthetic. But be warned, this is not an easy ride. Ishii, Ishimine, and Miki aren't out to open your eyes or show you the ugly underneath. Instead, they hope to free your mind, using visual flair and the jarring juxtaposition of form and function to broaden your horizons. And one does have to admit - it's a Heck of a ride.
At first, the over the top goofiness and incoherent shrillness are off-putting. The Moles are like prop comics who forgot their bag of tricks...or punchlines. They shout and stutter, playing on Asian stereotypes in an almost offensive manner. There are plenty of nods and winks to keep things in perspective, but it does start the film off on an odd footing. Then we get the weird animated battle between Little Hataru and some pulsating blob. Yet the ending turns out to be a jokey non-sequitor. The Unpopular with Women Brothers include a mature worrywart, an axe strumming hippy type, and a grade schooler who can't stop shoveling chocolate into his mouth. Their moments have an observational wit to them, that is, when Funky Forest doesn't overplay their part in the effort. Indeed, there are several sequences that go on for far too long. When we learn about the almost-affair between teacher Takefumi and a young student, we are intrigued. But then their storyline shifts into a nearly 40 minute musical pastiche, including numerous interpretive dance numbers and some Power Station like animation. By the end, we are desperate for a rationale.
By the time we reach the finish of Side A (like an album, the movie is divided in two with a near three minute intermission), we are spent - and Funky Forest still has 75 more minutes to go. The switch over sends in more illusions of body horror, homages to moments from Videodrome, a true slip into ultra-surrealism, and additional bumbling Brothers material. Like the ultimate experiment in motion picture one-upmanship, Ishii, Ishimine, and Miki seem to be challenging each other, pushing the very limits of their imagination and originality to come up with stranger and stranger set pieces. As the credits roll, we wonder what the purpose was, the point to all the madness and mayhem. With the frequent blackouts and introductory title cards, one envisions the pilot to some perverted primetime comedy cavalcade. There is a soiled sacrilegious SCTV appearance to everything Funky Forest: The First Contact attempts. For the most part, the concept works. As long as you don't demand that it make a lick of sense or stay within the bounds of reality, you'll be greatly rewarded - creeped out and made nutty, but rewarded nonetheless. - Bill Gibron

The annals of strange just got thicker with the arrival of "Funky Forest: The First Contact," a surreal sci-fi-musical-whatsit whose resistance to thematic or narrative logic renders viewers thoroughly -- but not unpleasantly -- bewildered for 2½ hours. Breathtakingly, often hilariously bizarre, it's nobody's idea of a commercial sureshot. But pic merits attention from adventuresome fest programmers, and will doubtless accrue a cult following on DVD.
First team effort for writing-helming-editing trio of Katsuhito Ishii ("Shark Skin Boy and Peach Hip Woman," "Taste of Tea"), TV commercial directors Shin'ichiro Miki and Anika aka Hajime Ishimine is a series of deadpan, oft-fantastical non sequiturs and goofy plot threads. Latter occasionally intersect, but scarcely hint at any game plan. Recurrent elements include idiot TV variety show-style comedy duo "The Mole Brothers"; three hapless "Unpopular With Women Brothers" who look unrelated; three pretty young women first identified as "Babbling Hot Spring Vixens"; a nerdy high school teacher-cum-DJ involved with his star student; and sitcom-style "Homeroom!!!" chapters from a Dadaist school life. Plus peppy choreographed dream sequences, unidentifiable puppet-or-CGI creatures, Cronenberg-style queasiness, and UFO visitations. Delirious, disarming pic is sharp in all tech and design departments. - Dennis Harvey

A film review should contain a number of key elements. It's always good to start with a brief description of the film's plot. Following this, there should be a critique of the picture's various qualities, discussing both good and bad points. Finally, following a brief summary, a verdict should be given, expressing the reviewer's ultimate feelings on the movie.
When presented with a film as unique as Funky Forest: The First Contact, such structure is revealed to be woefully inadequate. For one, writing a plot synopsis would be, shall we say, difficult; the film is a collection of loosely (if at all) connected sequences, with no narrative or arrangement to speak off. Secondly, trying to describe the collision of ideas that are on show here would be nigh on impossible. I could write a million words and yet never come close to describing just what Funky Forest: The First Contact actually is; let's try anyway, shall we?
Part musical, part comedy, all weird, Funky Forest sees directors Katushito Ishii, Hajime Ishimine, and Shunichiro Miki (who also all wrote the screenplay) leaving logic, traditional film structure, and any other restricting boundaries at the door. What they have produced is the movie equivalent of Wario-Ware, a collection of short and fast vignettes that have little to no bearing on what has gone before or what is to come.
Since I was unsure of what to expect, Funky Forest initially proved to be a perplexing experience, almost headache inducing. Given time, though, the film gradually—and totally unexpectedly—began to win me over. Perhaps that is the key to enjoying the movie; you need to go into this with a completely open mind. Any preconceived notions you have on how things are likely to play out are only likely to hinder your viewing of the film.
While I try to keep reviews as spoiler-free as possible, with Funky Forest, there are no real plot developments and therefore no spoilers to give. Of course, due to the lack of a cohesive plot, the question of how to provide a description of the film arises. So, in no real order, I present a few choice moments from Funky Forest: Two men, one dressed in a strange animal costume and the other wearing the tightest shorts I've ever seen, pull a miniature sushi chef from out of a giant anal sphincter in a box. A bizarre dance routine with a giant animated woman takes place on a beach at night. A man, alone in his room, performs a dance with fans. A classroom full of foul-mouthed pupils berates each other over a missing shoe. Two pupils perform a bizarre procedure with strange-looking alien creatures, with one pupil sticking an alien tentacle up the other pupil's rectum.
Even if you are able to get past the film's oddball nature, its running time could certainly become a stumbling block. At two-and-a-half hours, there is no question Funky Forest is far too long. Admittedly, thanks to being a collection of individual moments, the film could easily be watched in a couple of sittings; a convenient intermission even provides a perfect breaking-off point. But because the movie has as many strikeouts as it has hits, I can't help but feel a reduced running time would have produced a more consistent and entertaining picture.
Viz Media have turned out a quality DVD release; a 5.1 soundtrack that really steps up during the dance sequences, supporting a clean and colorful picture. Chief amongst the extras on this two-disc set is a fairly extensive making-of. Going into some depth on what went into the film, it offers no real answers as to what the hell it's all about, but still proves to be interesting and entertaining.
Providing a verdict on whether you should rent or purchase this movie is, in all honesty, not viable. Funky Forest: The First Contact is a totally original piece of work, like traveling through someone else's dreams at 100 m.p.h.; it's something you won't have experienced before and are unlikely to again. Fans of the strange and the avant-garde should give it a shot; everyone else is advised to approach with caution. - Paul Pritchard

OFFICIAL SITE: Funky Forest: The First Contact

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