Viz Media // 2005 // 150 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard // June 9th, 2008
"Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream. It is not dying. It is not dying."-"Tomorrow Never Knows" by The Beatles.
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.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Viz Media
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Japanese)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Japanese)
Running Time: 150 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* The Making of Funky Forest: "Into the World of the Unfathomable Forest"
* "Katsuichi's Dance": Secret Treasure (A Choreography Lesson Video)
* "The Transfer Student is Here" (Video Contents)