×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Sundance Film Review: ‘Kuso’

Intestinal fortitude is required to watch this scatological fantasia from "Steve," aka musician Flying Lotus.

With:
Iesha Coston, Zack Fox, The Buttress, Shane Carpenter, Oumi Zumi, Mali Matsuda, Tim Heidecker, Hannibal Buress, Donnell Rawlings, Anders Holm, Regan Farquhar, David Firth, George Clinton.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6131712/

Nearly every year at the Sundance film festival, some out-there entry ekes a modicum of press attention from reports that viewers fainted, barfed, or walked out en masse. This year, that film would be Midnight selection “Kuso,” though so far the drama hasn’t escalated beyond walkouts (an apparent sizable minority at public screenings, a majority at the press screening attended). Instead of deterring everyone, such notoriety inevitably whets the appetite of people who 50 years ago would have been lining up for their 10th viewing of “Mondo Cane” — the sort of audiences forever on the lookout for something weirder or more extreme to make them go, “Ewwwww!”

Those viewers, as well as some among the habitually-stoned, will constitute the primary fans of this first feature by “Steve,” aka Steve Ellison, better known as electronic musician, producer, and deejay Flying Lotus. Everybody else is going to want to take a wide detour around this insufferable mishmash of interwoven segments — aimless in themselves, even more so as a whole — almost entirely concerned with bodily functions and bodily fluids.

That it took a small army of animators and other craftspersons to realize Ellison’s vision only underlines the stupefying nature of its gist, which is pretty much exactly like 90 minutes of a toddler sticking its stained finger in your face while giggling, “Looka my poopie!” (minus the cute factor). It might have been entertaining to know what Freud would have made of this. But otherwise, “Kuso” can only strike most spectators as unnecessary further proof that infantile behavior from adults is as tedious as it is annoying. It’s a lesson you won’t be glad you learned again.

The various sections of the movie, separated by rolling TV static to suggest “channel surfing,” are diverse in technique but alike in general pointlessness and obsession with juvenile scatology. Supposedly, they’re all taking place after a massive Los Angeles earthquake, although as nearly everyone here has boils, open sores, and such — the better to let those viscous fluids flow — it seems more like some kind of plague has occurred. (Viewers inured to the ick value of humankind can rest assured that savory bowls of worms, squished cockroaches, and various mutational critters also surface here.)

In any case, the vignettes include a young couple in their apartment having sex, licking each other’s pus, and singing the occasional song; an older gibberish-speaking woman
falling down a “hole” where she’s terrorized by a mean girl, then her own monster-baby; a man with what looks like Down syndrome “feeding” a giant bunghole in the woods until it produces a human head; a young woman watching television with two TV-monitor-headed furry beings; and the latter’s visit to a dicey medical clinic, where a man with an embarrassing dysfunction is “cured” (after being on the receiving end of much explosive excrement) by a “doctor” essayed by funk great George Clinton.

From a safe distance, “Kuso” elicits abstract admiration for the dedication (and money) it took to realize these fragmentary ideas in fairly elaborate terms, using a wide range of animation styles — clay, computer, line drawing, puppetry, et al. — as well as live actors on fancifully decrepit if modest sets. But that falls into the realm of impressive negative achievements, like Longest Individual Time Spent Not Emitting an Audible Fart (a title this movie could never, ever lay claim to).

Ellison and company evoke a lot of midnight-movie antecedents, from “200 Motels” and “Eraserhead” to the arch deliberate camp of ’80s New Wave music cinema (“Forbidden Zone,” “Shock Treatment”) to Harmony Korine and Crispin Glover’s geeksploitation cinema. It also bears the imprint of various Cartoon Channel “Adult Swim” shows, which Flying Lotus has contributed music to, while some of the network’s other staple talents (like Tim Heidecker of “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!”) turn up on screen. But the referentiality of “Kuso,” its general snark, and even its defensive self-criticism (characters state “I hate this movie!” more than once) fail to make it any more funny or inspired, let alone any less of a shapeless chore to sit through.

That Ellison has a unique, genre-defying musical sensibility is amply demonstrated by the film’s soundtrack (for which Aphex Twin and Akira Yamaoka also created original tracks), by far its best element. Neither is there much cause to quibble in terms of the acting, design, or technical contributors, in that they did as instructed with what professional aplomb could be mustered — good efforts expended to an unfortunate end. “Kuso” can’t exactly be recommended under any circumstances, but it could conceivably be useful under some. For instance, its projection might clear senior citizens from a fire-threatened rest home at a speed they no longer knew they had in them.

Sundance Film Review: 'Kuso'

Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Midnight), Jan. 23, 2017. Running time: 92 MIN.

Production: A Brainfeeder Films presentation. (XYZ Films, CAA, Los Angeles.) Producer: Eddie Alcazar.

Crew: Director: Steve. Screenplay: Steven Ellison, David Firth, Zack Fox. Camera (color, widescreen): Norm Li, Danny Hiele, Benjamin Goodman. Editors: Ellison, Lucas Lynch. Music: Flying Lotus, Aphex Twin, Akira Yamaoka.

With: Iesha Coston, Zack Fox, The Buttress, Shane Carpenter, Oumi Zumi, Mali Matsuda, Tim Heidecker, Hannibal Buress, Donnell Rawlings, Anders Holm, Regan Farquhar, David Firth, George Clinton.

More Film

  • Miramax Developing 'I Won't Be Home

    Film News Roundup: Miramax Developing 'I Won't Be Home for Christmas'

    In today’s film news roundup, “I Won’t Be Home for Christmas” is in the works, the NFL has made a documentary about female team owners and D Street Pictures has signed Kenny Gage and Devon Downs to direct the dance feature “Move.” HOLIDAY PROJECT More Reviews Concert Review: Yoko Ono Earns a Wide-Ranging, All-Female Salute [...]

  • Michael B. Jordan arrives at the

    Michael B. Jordan to Star in Warner Bros.' 'Methuselah' Movie

    Michael B. Jordan will produce and star in a “Methuselah” movie for Warner Bros., based on the Biblical story of a man who lived to be 969 years old. Jordan will produce through his Outlier Society production company along with Heyday’s David Heyman and Jeffrey Clifford. More Reviews Concert Review: Yoko Ono Earns a Wide-Ranging, [...]

  • Davids Chief Piera Detassis on Revamping

    Davids Chief Piera Detassis on Revamping Italy's Top Film Awards

    Piera Detassis recently became the first woman to head the David di Donatello Awards, Italy’s equivalent of the Oscars. Since then she’s been busy overhauling the inner workings of the prizes that will be awarded on Wednesday. Detassis, also the editor of Italian film publication Ciak, spoke exclusively to Variety about the challenges she’s faced [...]

  • Matteo Garrone's 'Dogman' Leads Davids Awards

    Matteo Garrone's 'Dogman' Leads Davids Awards Race

    With 15 nominations Matteo Garrone’s “Dogman” leads the pack of contenders for Italy’s David di Donatello Awards in a watershed year for the country’s top film nods that sees highbrow auteur titles reaping most of the David love just as local box-office grosses hit an all-time low. Garrone’s gritty revenge drama is followed closely with [...]

  • steven spielberg Apple TV Plus

    Steven Spielberg's Apple Appearance Riles Up Social Media: 'Big Old Mixed Message'

    Many Hollywood heavyweights flocked to Apple’s Cupertino, Calif. headquarters to help reveal the tech giant’s revamped steaming service Apple TV+ on Monday — but one such legend was so polarizing he became a national trending topic on Twitter for simply showing his face. Steven Spielberg was the first to appear in a dramatic short film [...]

  • Michael Lynne

    Former New Line Co-Chairman Michael Lynne Dies at 77

    Michael Lynne, the former co-chairman of New Line Cinema who played a key role in shepherding “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, has died at his New York home. He was 77. Lynne’s death was confirmed Monday by longtime business partner Robert Shaye, who told Variety that Lynne’s family had informed him of Lynne’s passing [...]

  • Marisa Liston

    Sony Veteran Marisa Liston to Lead Lionsgate Movie Publicity

    Lionsgate has named Sony Pictures veteran executive Marisa Liston to lead all feature film and motion picture group publicity and communications strategy. Liston, who departed Sony in late 2018 after 17 years, has been assigned the newly created title of head of global earned media and communications. She will oversee domestic and international feature film [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content