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  • Benjamin May

Funky Forest: The First Contact (2005) Review

There are many strange movies out there, that defy genre convention and beguile with bizarreness, unpredictability and originality. Were one to compile a list of the oddest movies of all time, chances are one would include many from Japan: 'Tetsuo: The Iron Man,' 'House,' 'Survive Style 5+,' 'Gozu'- it could go on ad infinitum. Somewhere on that list you'd certainly find 'Funky Forest: The First Contact,' a madcap movie that takes viewers on a comedic thrill ride into the absurd.


'Funky Forest: The First Contact' is written and directed by Katsuhito Ishii, Hajime Ishimine and Shunichirô Miki, and is especially in keeping with the films of Ishii, particularly his previous 'The Taste of Tea.' A loosely connected series of bizarre sketches, the film is surreal, unpredictable and oftentimes quite funny. Like most ensemble films, the segments vary in quality, though the majority are at least interesting, if not entertaining, and will frequently have you in stitches (with the Susumu Terajima led 'Home Room' segments being the strongest comedically).

It is a film that builds in absurdity as it goes on, with some of the latter half's scenarios being truly off the wall. There is a temptation to criticize the movie for the disparate nature of the sketches, as well as for its' lack of purpose as a whole. Some may also be put off by the grotesquery of a few of the skits, and impatient viewers might think the proceedings a little protracted. However, the individuality, peculiarity and good humor of many of the sketches from 'Funky Forest: The First Contact' generally makes up for any opprobrium one could throw its way.


As does the fine cinematography from Hiroshi Machida and Kosuke Matsushima, who capture the outlandishness of the film with restraint. Their naturalistic work juxtaposes strongly with the subject matter, providing 'Funky Forest' with additional idiosyncrasy of style. Set decorator Asako Ohta's efforts do not go unnoticed, with locations appearing detailed and lived-in, and Shiori Tomita and Ikuko Utsunomiya's costume design is striking. Additionally, Toru Midorikawa's electronic score is atmospheric and catchy, and one will find it hard to get a few of the tunes out of one's head.

'Funky Forest' features an ensemble cast of actors, all of whom perform well- and some of whom deserve to be singled out. Susumu Terajima features in the most sketches, and will have you laughing any time he's on screen, whether in the aforementioned 'Home Room' or in the water with 'The Babbling Health Spa Vixens.' Tadanobu Asano is a real delight in a recurring sketch called 'Guitar Brother,' where he demonstrates both his considerable comedic timing and skills on the guitar. Ryô Kase and Erika Nishikado also do laudable work, impressing much with their ease of performance.


Though its' segments vary, 'Funky Forest: The First Contact' is a funny, unpredictable picture that is incredibly bizarre and thoroughly entertaining from start to finish. Featuring strong performances from all in the cast and an appropriately funky score from Toru Midorikawa; it is memorable and unique. Katsuhito Ishii, Hajime Ishimine and Shunichirô Miki have done commendable work with 'Funky Forest: The First Contact': a fine film featuring tales of the unexpected that perplexes and delights in equal measure.

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