Bizarro World Cinema 5: FUNKY FOREST: THE FIRST CONTACT (2005)
Directed by Katsuhito Ishii, Hajime Ishimine and Sunichiro Miki
“Shut up you poor-proportioned midget! Shame on you. How can you live with this body? Shame on you.”
– TSUDA, THE HEALTH TEACHER
More than any of the other films I have reviewed for Bizarro World Cinema, Funky Forest: The First Contact, I think, truly encapsulates what a Bizarro film should be. This movie is not easily described. Imagine the most absurd Monty Python sketches, add a bit of David Cronenberg, throw in some fake commercials, gags within gags, comedy routines, animation and strange dance sequences then wrap it all up in a hyperactive J-Pop package and you might come close to imagining what kind of weirdness this film has to offer.
There is a vague sort of plot but the film is mostly constructed of surreal stand-alone sketches, it’s almost like a collection of absurdist or experimental films. I imagine having three different directors also adds to this awesomely disorienting experience.
Three brothers who all have girl trouble attend a co-ed picnic with pretty Japanese girls. Guitar Brother (Tadanobu Asano), his always-horny older brother (Susumu Terajima) and their fat caucasian little brother (who is obsessed with snickers bars) sometimes appear (and sometimes not) in the schizophrenic episodes that follow.
The film is beautifully crafted, it’s truly a visual treat with great freak-out special FX, but it’s two and a half hour running time means that a viewer has to know what they are walking in to. Some sketches are long-winded and never quite go anywhere and yet others are comedic genius. It’s definitely a mixed-bag of a film but for any discerning bizarro film lover this is a hard one to miss.
It’s basically got everything: Sci-fi, dance battles, a girl who shoots lasers, a space monster, a parasitic blood-sucking foetus creature with an adult’s face, aliens and UFO’s. It’s all shot against beautiful Japanese landscapes. It’s goofy but truly mind-bending for those who like their cinema to mess with their heads.
The one theme that runs throughout the film seems to have something to do with how dreams interact without reality. I wouldn’t bother to pick apart this film and analyse it too much though as the enjoyment comes from just letting this wonderfully weird experience take you where it wants to go.
Trust me, it goes to some pretty awesome places.
If you end up watching Funky Forest and dig it, be sure to check out director Katsuhito Ishii‘s other surreal films Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl (Samehada otoko to momojiri onna, 1998) and Party 7 (2000).
Apparently there is also a quasi-sequel of sorts called The Warped Forest that was directed by Shunichiro Miki in 2011 and the trailer seems bizarrely beautiful.
On an interesting sidenote, Ishii was also responsible for the anime sequences in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003).
– Billy Hysteria