When we emerged from Funky Forest: The First Contact, our friend asked us what we thought of it. We found ourselves unable to form a sentence in reply and just spontaneously burst out in giggles. “I told you, man,” said our friend, “that movie makes you high.”
This was at the inaugural Toronto After Dark festival in October 2006. Everybody who came out of the screening of the epic Japanese sketch comedy knew that we had to take everyone we knew to see it. But each movie only plays once at After Dark, and where the hell else would anyone ever get to experience a two-and-a-half-hour (with three-minute intermission) “surreal experimental sketch comedy” with an audience?
At Innis Town Hall, it seems. Thanks to U of T’s Cinema Studies Student Union (CINSSU), Toronto is getting a second (and probably final) chance at what we assumed was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, Friday night at 7:00.
More than just a feature-length Mr. Sparkle commercial (with a touch of Cronenberg), Funky Forest is a transcendent, hilarious, and beautiful exploration of… well, what makes the movie work is the thematic coherence of the sketches, and a lot of the fun comes from teasing that out on your own. Just as Charlie Kaufman found that he couldn’t adapt Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief into a feature-length film and so instead did a movie expressing the essence of the book’s themes, co-directors and co-writers Katsuhito Ishii, Hajimine Ishimine, and Shunichiro Miki realized they couldn’t stretch the series of “Guitar Brothers” coffee ads into a feature and so instead did a series of mostly-unrelated episodes riffing on the central ideas. (Ishii is best known for doing the animated sequence in the first Kill Bill, as well as for directing The Taste of Tea, which was a hit at Innis last year.)
Yes, the first presidential debate is (maybe) also happening on Friday evening. But you can watch that online later, and it will presumably be the same experience. You could watch Funky Forest at home on DVD, too, but it’s unlikely that shouting “Home rooooom!” at the screen is nearly as much fun when you’re the only person doing it.
Image of the Japanese DVD from Nippon Cinema.