Have you ever loved something so much you just assume that it is only logical that everyone else loves it? When you find out someone does not like it, it's tough for your brain to compute? Such is the case with this wonderful, funny and inventive film that is surprisingly (to me anyway) not a fan favourite.
Upon seeing this at the Toronto After Dark festival (my favourite film festival by the way. Thought you needed to know) I left so joyful and elated at seeing one of the best films I'd seen in a long, long time. Sure I had seen "crazy" Japanese films before, the DVD for Survive Style 5+ I bought in Japan is one of my prouder possessions and there is a chance another "wacky" Japanese film will show up further down this list, but Funky Forest really got to me. It seemed to be a celebration of love, music, dance, film, anime, comedy... you name it. And it didn't play by the rules. However, my good lady wife and good friend who left with me did enjoy it, but mostly found it weird. "Yeah" I said, "Weird is good!". But two and a half hours of weird with no real narrative? Ain't that pushing it?
In my opinion, the film is not about story, plot or characters, but about the feelings it elicits in the viewers. And to me at least, all of them were enjoyable. Kind of a positive version of Enter the Void. I've heard movies compared to drug trips, and to say that about Funky Forest wouldn't be too far off, but there is also such a positivity to the material that it would also seem unfair. It would seem like dumbing down the movie to compare it to an LSD trip. It's closer to a kid's film for weird adults, trying to bring out the genuine emotions we felt so non-chalantly when we were children.
As for the movie itself, it's essentially a series of vignettes held loosely together by stories of urequited love. There's the "unpopular with woman brothers" consisting of the incredible Susumu Terajima, Tadanobu Asano and a white kid. Then there's a teacher and his student/crush that share an afternoon together. Both stories start out a little strange, but by the end they're absolutely surreal. Just type in Funky Forest into YouTube and you'll get at least a dozen small samples of the film's strangeness.
After buying this for a good buddy on his birthday, and him disliking it quite a bit, I am a tad hesitant to recommend this film for just anyone. But if you enjoy off the wall films with loads of imagination and heart, I would definitely say.... look on YouTube and see if it's not too weird.... then rush out and buy this one of a kind film. Then check out Katsuhito Ishii's other masterpiece, A Taste of Tea, a more melancholy Funky Forest type of film.