[The Cult Club is where Flixist’s writers expound the virtues of their favourite underground classics, spanning all nations and genres. It is a monthly series of articles looking at what made those films stand out from the pack, as well as their enduring legacy.]
There are many odd movies in the world. Some of them are unintentionally hilarious, attempting to create a masterpiece and falling fantastically short due to low budgets, poor acting, or some combination thereof. Some of them embrace these shortcomings and work with them, going for the so-bad-it’s-good aesthetic to mixed success. Then there are other films, those that go for an abstract concept and don’t necessarily care if the audience is left behind. Funky Forest is one of the latter. It might be hilariously absurd on purpose, or it might be secretly brilliant.
I first learned of Funky Forest: First Contact through Jonathan Holmes, the expert on most of the horrors that exist on this planet. He described one of the later scenes in the movie involving a school girl, a doctor, and a bloodsucking leech in the form of a tiny, bobble-headed man that came out of the pants of another man who squirted milk from his long nipples for sport. Why, yes: that was a sentence you just read! A single scene in this movie elicits a knowing smile and an, “Oh, Japan,” but the entirety is so much more than that.
While this is not as graphic as some former Cult Club articles, proceed with caution: Funky Forest is not something you want your boss to walk in on.
Funky Forest is so incoherent that, when asked what it’s about, it’s easier just to describe a scene than give a basic plot outline. The movie is a series of vignettes using the same actors that sometimes are and sometimes aren’t the same characters they acted as previously. The scattered bits of story are mostly linear, but intertwine with each other so gently that it feels like a surprise when one character knows another.
One story line follows the pseudo-romance of Takefumi and Notti, a student and her former teacher that are kind of dating, but not really. Takefumi would like to date her seriously, but Notti is reluctant to admit her true feelings to him and get in too deep. In case that sounds a little too normal for this movie, Takefumi has two uvulas and believes he was abducted by aliens, and both express their feelings through elaborate dreamworld dance sequences.
Another branch follows the Unpopular With Women Brothers. Masaru, known as Guitar Brother, pops up the most often. He is either an anime artist or a high school gym teacher, perhaps both, and he plays the guitar very poorly. There’s Katsuichi, the traditional Japanese brother who loves kabuki and hot springs. Their younger brother, Masao, is a fat white child who only learned enough Japanese to awkardly stumble over his few lines, and he is constantly shoving a Snickers bar in his face.
The connection between stories is faint, and seems almost coincidental. One section entitled Babbling Hot Springs Vixens, which focuses on three very talkative saleswomen in a hotel telling each other stories, shows the women running into Traditional Brother, mentioning offhand that they are friends with Takefumi, and bringing up a fictional tale about an alien named Piko-riko that comes up in a later, completely separate section. The women never show up outside of their segment, but they seem to know everyone. One of them also looks a bit like Japanese Aubrey Plaza.
It’s hard to say anything cohesive about Funky Forest without just giving a blow-by-blow of each scene. Many scenes feel like a collection of events happening with no apparent reason, and even careful analysis of each scene and the order they fall into does not yield any more answers about an overall theme. Perhaps there is a connection between a comedy duo that nods to the Three Stooges and school children playing sexualized alien instruments, and it’s just too difficult to read.
There’s something happening at every moment, and it is usually incredibly bizarre. Even the more normal sections of the movie are shot or edited in a way that inspires an entrancing sort of discomfort. Disconnected, intentionally messy edits with long sections devoid of any audio or video mingle with long still shots of a character doing something incredibly banal. There’s always the anticipation that the whole scene is about to explode, and when that expectation is not met, it somehow becomes worse.
Funky Forest is not a musical, but the prevalence of song and dance numbers heavily toes the line. The dance numbers themselves feel less bizarre than the rest of the movie, perhaps because choreographed dance has a way of taking the reality out of a scene on its own, but one involves a character dancing with an animated titty monster so it’s not like it becomes momentarily sane. The music itself is catchy, ranging from heavy guitars and screaming to soothing electronic with elephant noises.
If you’re interested in experiencing the absurdist roller coaster that is Funky Forest, the movie is available online, but it’s really worth getting on DVD. It’s best experienced when sober. The movie is a two-and-a-half hour drug trip on its own, and you really shouldn’t cross-haze with this one. Seriously. You’ll go insane.
Next month: The Cult Club expands when Sean Walsh asks The Warriors to come out and play!
PREVIOUSLY SHOWING AT THE CULT CLUB
October: Casino Royale (1967)
September: The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
July: Batman (1966)
May: The Apple (1980)
April: Santa Sangre (1989)