A strong candidate for weirdest movie of the year, “The Warped Forest” is a sometimes hilarious, sometimes dumb, frequently grotesque but never dull excursion into a surreal parallel world where tiny people and giants coexist alongside puppet-like creature-thingies. This self-funded solo directing debut by Japanese cult figure Shunichiro Miki (“Funky Forest: The First Contact”) will leave just about everyone baffled, but doesn’t lack for entertainment value. Fests should check it out.Initially, the pic appears normal as three drinking buddies talk about a strange forest they’ve heard about. Switching from black-and-white to color, Miki zooms into the woods where fruit grows from the limbs of alabaster-skinned nymphs and a nearby village is home to eccentrics including full-sized baker’s wife Yuppo (Rinko Kikuchi, “Babel”) and thumb-sized pregnant lady Makko (Mako Satoh). The passing parade of curiosities includes furry critters oozing goop and a punk girl toting a ray-gun. Beautifully designed and decorated, this one-of-a-kind pic makes no apparent sense, but is compelling in the strangest of ways. Some viewers may feel that somehow it all adds up at the end — sort of. Effects work and other tech credits are topnotch.
A Shunichiro Miki Office production in association with AOI Promotion. (International sales: Nice Rainbow, Tokyo.) Produced by Yasuhito Nakae, Motohiro Kumakura. Directed by Shunichiro Miki. Screenplay, Miki, Yuuka Oosumi.
Camera (color/B&W, HD), Tetsuro Enjoji, Noboru Iwasaki; editors, Aya Kitazawa, Daisuke Miyazaki, Tomomasa Sano; music, Oyagi Nobuyuki; production designer, Shinji Inoue; costume designer, Yuriko Fujiwara. Reviewed at Hawaii Film Festival, Oct. 15, 2011. Running time: 77 MIN.
Fumi Nikaido, Kanoko Kawaguchi, Rinko Kikuchi, Mikan Ai Makino, Ryu Morioka, Mako Satoh, Atsushi Yoshioka, Tsubasa Fukusawa.