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Funky Forest: The First Contact
blaisepascal
I just finished watching Funky Forest: The First Contact, an unusual Japanese film I got on Netflix. It isn't bad; if it were bad, I wouldn't have watched the whole movie. But it is...strange.

An IMDB reviewer described it as like a David Cronenberg comedy. My feeling is that it maintains the tight, plot-driven focus of some great American movies like Amazon Women on the Moon and Kentucky Fried Movie. The movie features segments of stories, ranging from a few seconds to several minutes (the 150+minute movie had 44 chapters, which means the average chapter is 3m24s long, and each chapter corresponds to a break/jump from one segment to another). Many of the segments feature recurring story-lines or people, so there aren't 44 stories in this collection.

This is the work of 3 directors, each claiming credit for a total of 21 of the segments, and another 22 credited to "Interval" on the DVD (all three directors plus Interval claim credit on segment 44, "End Roll"). One director, 石井克人 (ISHII Katsuhito) directed four of the recurring stories. "Guitar Brothers" is about three "brothers" who live together who are apparently decidedly unattractive to women (for different reasons). I wouldn't say there was an overall plot to that story. "Anime Brothers" is about two brothers who are doing all the animation for an anime ostensibly written by Pero, a small dog (the elder of the brothers finds the situation with Pero and his interpreter to be "fishy", and believes the interpreter is the real director). We do get to see the finished animation. With "Babbling Hot Springs Vixens" it becomes quickly clear that the vixens are babbling more than the springs are. "HOMEROOM !!!!!!!!!" features the morning announcements of different classmates during a homeroom session in school -- for an oddly configured class. In addition to these four stories (ranging from 2 segments for Anime Brothers to 5 for Guitar Brothers), ISHII also directed two standalone segments, one featuring the "Mole Brothers", the other featuring a girl named Hataru. Overall, he gets credit for 65m of the movie.

The second director, 三木俊一郎, MIKI Shunichiro, is responsible for some of the more bizarre imagery in the work, as his three segments all involve odd prosthetics or puppetry of distinctly... well, it's clear that they are alive, and it's clear in two of the segments that they are considered normal in the world of the segments, but they are clearly not a product of our world. If you look at the DVD cover, you'll see in the upper left a pink thing in the upper left and two guys dressed in yellow fursuits. Those are from his segments. "Wanna Go For A Drink" is about an odd encounter a schoolgirl has in the school hallway. "Youth Classroom" takes place in the youth classroom of a school, while "After School Club" is based, well, you can probably guess. It's hard to say that there is an overall plot or theme, or reason, for these segments. Overall his segments account for 25m.

The third director, ANIKI, clocks in with one 46m story in three segments. This story, "Notti&Takefumi", is probably the most coherent story of the bunch, centered around two characters: a real cutie named Notti and a young schoolteacher named Takefumi. Notti was a student at Takefumi's school, but now they are/are not dating. This is the central conflict of this story -- Takefumi loves Notti and wishes they acted more like a couple (including going on a world trip together) while Notti has no real desire to be a couple. The first segment sets up their relationship, while the other two segments are them each telling about a dream they had. While the imagery and motifs of the dream sequences are fantasy, it's clear in the setup that they are dreams (the three segment titles are "Notti&Takefumi -- Prologue", "...-- Takefumi's Dream" and "...-- Notti's Dream"). The struggle of Notti&Takefumi's relationship is clearly reflected in their dreams: Takefumi spends his dream following the direction of Notti, while begging her to express her feelings towards him, while in Notti's dream Takefumi doesn't appear at all.

The "fourth director", Interval, has 22 segments, including a 3-minute intermission, taking a total of 7m46s, averaging 21s each (without the intermission, it's 13.6s each). With just a couple of exceptions the intervals are extensions or cuts from the other stories.

The stories are slightly interlocked via shared characters. Takefumi appears in "After School Club", while many of the characters across several stories meet up for a rather disastrous "Single's Picnic". Hataru is in the "Youth Class Room", and one of the Guitar Brothers is a coach in the After School Club.

While watching bits of it again to write this write-up, I noticed things which escaped me in the first viewing -- characters whose significance wasn't apparent until later in the film, for instance.

The DVD features the ability to watch the movie in order, or to watch just the segments which belong to each director. The latter ordering provides a somewhat more coherent picture, and is how I was able to break things out by director, but it isn't a real substitute to watching the movie in it's released order.

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Funky Forrest sounds...bizarre. This isn't always a bad thing.
You mentioned Amazon Women on the Moon and Kentucky Fried Movie, two classics. Have you seen the Groove Tube?

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