I wouldn’t say that Funky Forest: The First Contact (ナイスの森 Naisu no mori) is a good or neccessarily a very funny film for the most part. But it is a film in which the scene above occurs, which is a kind of recommendation if you’re a fan of this blog and its usual subject matter. After a passing high school student is persuaded to use her navel to power up a Cronenbergian television that gives birth to a miniature sushi chef through its puckered sphincter-screen, the scene ends like this:
To which the only possible response from her– and us, probably– is:
(More animated GIFs follow: give them a few moments to load.)
Written and directed by Katsuhito Ishii, Hajimine Ishimine and Shunichiro Miki, the film’s barrage of semi-related or unrelated skits also involve two middle aged Asian men who are entirely unfazed by the fact that their biological brother is a portly Causasian boy who only speaks pidgin Japanese, three saleswomen who constantly regale each other with the most maddeningly dull anecdotes known to humanity, more than one lengthy, unmotivated dance sequence, a little girl who visits another dimension instead of doing her boring homework, a young woman hitting parasites with a tennis racquet, and a discussion about the desirability of working for a film director who is a small black dog. The Funky Forest of the title appears to be the one that gets mixed and DJed by a trio of aliens at the end of the film. Obviously.
Defaulting to “LOL, weird Japan” is very easy, so I think this film is also interesting as an example of something that is self-consciously strange and non sequitur. In fact the idea that the Japanese don’t recognise or understand absurdity is (obviously, when you think about it) not true. A lot of “weird Japan” stuff is done with complete awareness that it’s weird, usually with the intention of being funny. In as much as one can generalise about a whole nation’s sense of humour, Japanese humour generally is extremely daft. Their love of kitchen sink surrealism and the hilarity they find in awkwardness is one of the many traits they share with the British; another proud, self-regarding island that still doesn’t quite know what to do with itself without any empire to tend.
The skit above makes fun of Japanese light entertainment’s banality, as in this screencapped moment where they pause their “comedy act” (mainly aborted punchlines and clipping each other around the ear) to patriotically announce “I am Japanese” / “And so am I” for no apparent reason, then hold these incredibly awkward poses for much longer than is comfortable. Banality seems to be a unifying theme: radically boring saleswoman banter, a boy furious about his shoes being stolen by traitorous classmates despite the fact that he is still wearing them, a fluffy yellow alien who complacently requests that his long groin appendage be pulled, a lethal bloodsucking parasite belittled and insulted off its victim by a calm stranger instead of hacked or torched in panic. Other than banality, your guess is as good as mine when it comes to what this film is about. The best I can do is that it’s like a Matthew Barney film if Matthew Barney films were benign and charming and slightly infected by pus from a mutated Wes Anderson.