Saturday, 31 May 2008

Funky Forest - The First Contact

At the first Toronto After Dark Film Festival in October 2006, Twitch's Todd Brown called "Funky Forest: The First Contact" the strangest film he'd ever seen. Two and a half mind boggling hours later, several hundred attendees had just updated their own lists too. It was a great screening - a theatre full of people truly never knowing what the hell they were going to see next and completely loving it. But would a series of surreal sketches hold up as a home DVD viewing experience a year and a half later?

Turns out the answer is Yes. It's a different experience of course, but the film builds up such a great deal of good will with its silly incongruous moments and deadpan humour that I couldn't help but enjoy it all over again. As well, I started to see a bit more of a common theme running through the material - mostly as it relates to dreams and the mixing of them with reality. That, and a lot of dancing.

Singles Picnic Dance

Uso Uso-so

How can you resist a film with the recurring "Babbling Hot Springs Vixens"? Or the "Guitar Brother" segments with Tadanobu Asano and his chubby younger white sibling? Or the strangest music class you'll ever see where a series of odd creatures are played by attaching themselves to your body? Or the dog who is an animation director and needs a gargantuan headed woman to translate his ideas? Or the badminton practice that has a young woman trying to volley back the liquids coming out of a man's long nipples after squeezing his...Well, you'll just have to see that one for yourself. And how about the three minute intermission with a countdown clock? And the shorter 19 second intermission later on where the actors simply freeze mid scene? All these ideas and images combine into a surreal experience to say the least, but it's also very funny. The straight faced line deliveries help, but there's also some moments of sudden quick edits that sharpen the humour in a scene.

The Homeroom skits were one of the more popular sequences of the film during that After Dark screening and it's apparent from the clip below for several reasons:

  • The complete disparity of the ages of the students in the classroom. What kind of school is this? As well, if you pay attention you'll notice people from previously in the film as well as other characters that show up later on.
  • Each episode starts with the teacher getting whacked on the head via a practical joke by the class - and he doesn't seem to mind.
  • The theme music - How great is that little snippet?
  • The timing of the humour - both in its delivery by the actors and in the editing. Particularly at the end as they splice in small additional segments.
  • The absurdity of the situations in each episode.

The idea of mixing shows up in several forms during the film - the DJ mixing music in his apartment, the different repeating characters showing up in each others vignettes (and all of them showing up in "Homeroom") and the extended mix of sounds when we finally enter the funky forest that are created by the mixing consoles of the three young females who are "the one who controls the sounds of all living creatures", "the one who plays with the sounds of nature" and "the one who takes command of every sound made by man's technology".

The entire film is a dreamland mix of bits and pieces of everyday life with the fantastical as well as the natural with the technological (including a completely insane section involving a young girl's belly button that connects via a living cable to a grotesque pulsating...well, you'll just have to see that one for yourself too).

Just let the film wash over you like it was your own dream.


juliet small ernst said...

i've only seen the two excerpts of this film that were on the wholphin disc some time ago, but i feel now that i should see the whole thing.

Bob Turnbull said...

Hi Juliet...

Steady yourself and dive in. I'd love to hear what you think of it.

James McNally said...

I wish someone would organize another screening here in Toronto. It's much more fun to see this with an audience, especially an unsuspecting one.

Bob Turnbull said...

Absolutely James...You and I could sit in the back row and probably get just as much entertainment out of watching the uninitiated react to the screen.

People may never want to play badminton again after seeing it though, so let that be a fair warning.