Funky Forest: The First Contact (Sub) (2005) Review
(More customer reviews)An artistic masterpiece or just one very odd film? Depending on the viewer, "FUNKY FOREST" (or "Nice no Mori") could be anything I suppose. And I think that because it's so strange, fun and at times, mind boggling, it's why I the film has become a cult-hit.
I am quite familiar with the work of Katsuhito Ishii, who definitely received some rave reviews for his film "The Taste of Tea" at the Cannes Film Festival but what happens when you take one of the most popular abstract and creative directors and pair him up with equally creative filmmakers such as Shunichiro Miki and ANIKI, you're definitely going to get something wild, unique and something you probably never have seen before.
To explain "FUNKY FOREST" would be a bit difficult. It's not written as a straightforward film. There is no actual climatic points or anything like that. It's 21 free-associative short episodes featuring some of the weirdest characters and also cameos by well-known Japanese talent.
For example,"Little Hataru" is a single segment starring a young girl who is bored and bored of homework, so she has the ability to leave reality and enter some sort of dimension, space or time or does she?
One of my favorite segments in the film are featuring the the Guitar Brothers. Three unpopular brothers, Katsuichi, Masaru and Masao. For their storyline, Katsuichi (Terajima) tries to learn dance but eventually goes to the Hot Springs where he encounters three beautiful women and tries to develop the guts to ask them out for a singles party. Masaru (Asano) is a guitarist. A very good guitarist but somehow he tries to get the approval of his little brother, a Caucasian/portly child who is constantly eating Snicker bars and responds with bad/limited Japanese.
Another favorite segment is "Notti and Takefumi". Two young adults, Notti (or Nocchi) likes jogging and spending time with Takefumi. Takefumi teaches English, has an awesome vinyl collection (which I'm crediting to filmmaker ANIKI for including his passion for vinyl's in this segment) but despite being close, they are dating but not dating. There is no romantic relationship, they look very close but somehow aren't. But they enjoy each other's company. A very intriguing relationship by these two individuals and fun segment to watch.
The Mole Brothers is reminscent to a lot of comedic duos in Japan who have their bit of slapping the other person behind the head and all in all, just telling jokes that may or may not be funny.
Babbling Hot Spring Vixens feature three young women taking a trip to the hot springs and telling the stories that they had in their life (or what other's are having). For this segment, the women meet Masaichi (of the Guitar Brothers) and have fun with him by singing happy birthday and giving him 10,000 Yen. And Katsuichi may have found love and tries to ask one of the women out to a single's party. Then one of the girls tells a story that she heard from Takefumi (from the Notti and Takefumi story) about aliens and entering a UFO.
After the first 70 minutes of the film, you get a 3-minute intermission. If you thought the first half was quite weird, your in for a ride as the second half of the film just gets wilder, stranger and also much more enjoyable!
The second half starts off with "Wanna Go For a Drink?" featuring a girl who runs into a guy wearing an animal suit but with its tail coming out of his frontal region. The guy asks the teenager to pull his tail and she thinks she's on candid camera or something. Once she pulls it, she's joined by a slick-haired Takefumi wearing the top half of a black tie and suit and underwear. It appears these people may be aliens. They ask her to stick something in her bellybutton which allows them to start their machine.
One of my favorite segments from the second half of the film is "Homeroom Room!!!" featuring Masaichi (Guitar Brothers) teaching a class of students young and old. Special note: Among the students are Hideaki Anno (creator of the anime "Neon Genesis Evangelion"), who also has a few parts of him acting throughout the film. In one segment, one students is ticked because someone stole one of his shoes and goes through a long dialogue blaming his class, until he sits back down and you realize he is wearing both shoes. The next segment features Ms. Kikuchi (a cameo by Academy Award nominee, "Babel" actress Rinko Kikuchi) playing the class president who has her class repeat her "yankee" (bully) like talk.
"Guitar Brothers" makes its return in the second half with a hilarious piece because you know that Masaru (Asano) is talking to Masao (Alfieri) in Japanese and Masao has no idea what he's saying but it's just funny to watch. Especially when Masaichi invites them for ramen and Masao just jumps up and down with excitement saying "iku iku" (which is term in Japan used for something a bit nasty) instead of "ikou ikou".
But then the aliens (CGI) start to become part of the storyline as some of the classmates from "Home Room!!!" start to play with the aliens as musical instruments. And even revealing that some of these students may be aliens themselves. Such as a scene where one student holding an alien, has another student plugging that alien's tentacle to his rear. Another scene features a stump-like thing (or a nude woman laying down with her legs up in the air) and out of these stump are branches of little alien men. One has a unhappy face, so one must stroke his tentacle to make him happy.
These are examples of the wild storylines from each of the 21 episodes included in "FUNKY FOREST".It's hard to even explain the film but what I like about the film is how much was improvised and how creative the director's had in creating such an unsually odd, unique but entertaining film.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
The original film was shot in 35mm and is presented with an aspect ratio of 1:85:1 and is featured in anamorphic widescreen (16:9). The film is shot in so many locations, indoor, outdoor, cramped rooms, hot springs, parks, schools, etc. As for the audio, the primary film is mostly dialogue but during the scenes that feature music, your home theater system literally blasts off with the audio really blaring out in full force.
Before talking about the features, this release features two DVD's. The first disc features the movie and has two types of chapter menus. The Director's Chapter menu is primarily if you want to watch the segments directed by either Ishii, Miki or ANIKI.Definitely a thumbs up for the DVD featuring these two different types of menu. The first disc also features the original Japanese theatrical, television and teaser trailers.
The second DVD has a few special features which are:
* The Making of "Funky Forest" - "Into the World of the Unfathomable Forest" - This feature is about 70-minutes long and was a blast to watch. One thing that I enjoyed was seeing all the cameos of actors I have seen on Japanese television before pretty much excited with working with one of these directors and knowing how weird the project will be but because of that, really wanting to be involved. Also, hearing from the other talent who had a blast to take part in the film and literally improvise. That was fun! But I think the coolest part featured anime director Hideaki Anno ("Neon Genesis Evangelion", "Gunbuster", "Kare Kano", etc.) and his interview and even some of the staff having their special edition DVD's signed by him because they were such big fans. So, overall this was an awesome special feature.
* "Katsuichi's Dance" Secret Treasure (A Choreography Lesson Video) - This features a segment in the beginning where Katsuichi has to dance and basically a behind-the-scenes choreography in which actor Susumu Terajima had to learn the dance moves.
* "The Transfer Student is Here" (Video Contents) - This is more or less the storyboard like work from this segment.
* Viz Pictures Presents - Trailers of other film releases from Viz Pictures
When it comes to odd films, creative or artistic type of films, I'm actually quite open to them and always interested in seeing how fresh the ideas can come from a director or in this case directors. I've heard so much about the creativity behind Katsuhito Ishii's "The Taste of Tea" and so, I was very much interested in watching "FUNKY FOREST: The First Contact".
This is a type of film, sort of like looking at an abstract piece of art. Everyone has their own interpretation. Some may find it beautiful, some may find it refreshing and unique, some may find it bland and some may find it uninteresting. This is one of those type of films that some will get and some won't.
There are a lot of dream sequences that can be interpreted in many types of ways, the appearances of aliens can either mean that the people we are watching are indeed aliens or just a manifestation of boredom or stress. It's one of those films that you just don't analyze or figure out what, you just sit and watch and just laugh and enjoy because of its unique and strange presentation.
There are some visual references that possibly can be considered as sexual or even nasty (ie. stroking an alien's tentacle up and down to make it happy) or an alien with odd-shaped nipples that shoots out a variety of things from them. Or a bulbous type of whatever you may want to call it, that comes out of the butt of an alien. These are not meant to be taken seriously, but they are funny to watch nonetheless.
Granted, of the 21-episodes, not all of them are winners. There are some that I felt were a bit too long (such as Takefumi's dream sequence) and...Read more›
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Cult-favorite director Katsuhito Ishii (The Taste of Tea, Shark Skin Man & Peach Hip Girl) teams up with the talented Shunichiro Miki and ANIKI to create another visually inventive masterpiece! Funky Forest features hilariously odd characters that will take you on an unpredictable cosmic journey.Three unpopular brothers, Masaichi, Masaru and Masao, are struggling to be popular among the girls. Luckily enough, they finally get a chance to have a co-ed picnic with some pretty young ladies! With 21 free-associative episodes ranging from a nonsense "sci-fi" comedy to a dance-battle daydream, Funky Forest: The First Contact will challenge your mind and melt logic, as its unique characters find themselves in warped dimensions way past our imagination.DISC 1:Feature: FUNKY FOREST: THE FIRST CONTACT Director s chapter menuInterval chapter menuJapanese Original TrailersDolby Digital Surround 5.1DISC 2:The Making of Funky Forest- Into the World of the Unfathomable Forest A Choreography Lesson Video- Katsuichi s Dance Secret Treasure Video Contents- The Transfer Student is Here!