The annals of strange just got thicker with the arrival of "Funky Forest: The First Contact," a surreal sci-fi-musical-whatsit whose resistance to thematic or narrative logic renders viewers thoroughly -- but not unpleasantly -- bewildered for 2½ hours. Breathtakingly, often hilariously bizarre, it's nobody's idea of a commercial sureshot.

The annals of strange just got thicker with the arrival of “Funky Forest: The First Contact,” a surreal sci-fi-musical-whatsit whose resistance to thematic or narrative logic renders viewers thoroughly — but not unpleasantly — bewildered for 2½ hours. Breathtakingly, often hilariously bizarre, it’s nobody’s idea of a commercial sureshot. But pic merits attention from adventuresome fest programmers, and will doubtless accrue a cult following on DVD.

First team effort for writing-helming-editing trio of Katsuhito Ishii (“Shark Skin Boy and Peach Hip Woman,” “Taste of Tea”), TV commercial directors Shin’ichiro Miki and Anika aka Hajime Ishimine is a series of deadpan, oft-fantastical non sequiturs and goofy plot threads. Latter occasionally intersect, but scarcely hint at any game plan. Recurrent elements include idiot TV variety show-style comedy duo “The Mole Brothers”; three hapless “Unpopular With Women Brothers” who look unrelated; three pretty young women first identified as “Babbling Hot Spring Vixens”; a nerdy high school teacher-cum-DJ involved with his star student; and sitcom-style “Homeroom!!!” chapters from a Dadaist school life. Plus peppy choreographed dream sequences, unidentifiable puppet-or-CGI creatures, Cronenberg-style queasiness, and UFO visitations. Delirious, disarming pic is sharp in all tech and design departments.

Funky Forest: The First Contact

Japan

Production

A Phantom Films production. Produced by Harada Norihisa, Itou Taiti, Wadakura Kazutosi Directed, written, edited by Katsuhito Ishii, Hajime Ishimine, Shin'ichiro Miki.

Crew

Camera (color), Hiroshi Machida, Kousuke Matsushima; music supervisor, Midorikawa Tooru; production designer, Shinji Inoue. Reviewed at San Francisco Indiefest, Feb. 12, 2006. (Also in Yubari Film Festival.) Running time: 150 MIN.

With

Susumu Terajima, Tadanobu Asano, Chizuru Ikewaki, Kazue Fukiishi, Ryo Kase, Hideaki Anno, Kanji Tsuda, Mariko Takahashi.
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