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  Funky Forest: The First Contact What The What Now?Buy this film here.
Year: 2005
Director: Katsuhito Ishii, Hajime Ishimine, Shunichiro Miki
Stars: Andrew Alfieri, Hideaki Anno, Moyoco Anno, Tadanobu Asano, Maya Banno, Kazue Fukiishi, Chizuru Ikewaki, Shihori Kanjiya, Ryo Kase, Rinko Kikuchi, Aoi Miura, Kenji Mizuhashi, Ryû Morioka, Yoshiyuki Morishita, Erika Nishikado, Yûko Nishimaru, Machiko Ono
Genre: Comedy, Weirdo
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Let's hear it for The Shorty Trio! And now: The Mole Brothers! The crowd goes wild and the comedy duo commence their act, which consists of aggressive banter and slapping one another, then calling out various phrases they know will get a huge cheer, though their invocation of Japan leads to looks of confusion and stony silence. Not to worry, as the rest of their act goes swimmingly, and the man inside the space alien pod watching all this on his television screen enjoys it well enough, but he recognises it is time to switch that off and fire up his engines, then soar up into the void filled with his fellow pod pilots...

As you can tell from that opening, this was no ordinary movie, and if you were wondering where the Funky Forest came into this you'd have a long wait as almost two-and-a-half hours later when it was about to finish there was a musical number where a violinist was accompanied by electronically enhanced woodland; you had to assume this was what the title was referring to. In the main this was a nonsensical assembly of skits which resembled watching a whole series of a television sketch show in one go, though by all accounts this did escape to a number of cinemas; whatever, it could prove exhausting to those unimpressed by the three writer-directors' sense of humour.

And even for those who did find themselves laughing at it, the sheer weight of strangeness might less captivate and more irritate, not factoring in the culture clash for anyone outside of Japan in not being completely attuned to the targets of the jokes. That said, if absurdist giggles were your thing, it was true a lot of this proved capable of bringing out the belly laughs should you be in the mood for it, and although there seemed to be more audiences less engaged than those who appreicated it, its cult following was considerable enough to make it worthwhile for those who fancied a marathon of the outré. With recurring characters it was tempting to divine some kind of plot or at least a running theme, but that way lay frustration.

The Mole Brothers, for example, after their stellar introduction occasionally reappeared for interstitials, and as much non sequitur as most of the rest of this. Then there were the so-called Unpopular With Women Brothers whose segments led up to a Singles Picnic which other male characters were also looking forward to - you can probably guess how that works itself out, well, apart from the dance sequence. There were females here too, such as in the first half the three Babbling Hot Springs Vixens who were followed around a spa resort where they would share tales with one another which sounded like they should be basic gossip but actually if you tried to concentrate on what they were saying made no sense whatsoever - little wonder they wind up in a furious pillow fight.

For the second half, if anything this grew even stranger with more special effects put into play, starting out and continuing with that peculiarly Japanese obsession with school. So one teenage girl walking down the halls is faced with a man in a furry yellow suit sporting a ten foot long limp phallus which he asks her to pull, and being an accomodating type she does so only to be requested to place a tube in her navel and watch as a tiny sushi chef is pulled from a mechanical anus. Although this is explained in a "punchline" as a dream, there's plenty which has no such qualification, including an after school band practice which has truly grotesque plant/animal hybrids as instruments, and the world's weirdest game of badminton which ends with a bloodsucking parasite being masturbated then humiliated to detach it from the player's arm. If nothing else, Funky Forest had the appeal of a team throwing any idea they had at the wall to see what stuck - even if those ideas would then slither down to the floor.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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