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.

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

  • UGC Distribution Closes on Mariano Cohn’s

    Ventana Sur: UGC Distribution Closes Market Hit ‘4 x 4’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    BUENOS AIRES — UGC Distribution has beaten out all other suitors to clinch what had became by Friday morning the most anticipated deal of this year’s Ventana Sur market: All rights to France on Argentine Mariano Cohn’s “4 x 4,” sold by Latido Films and distributed throughout Argentina by Disney. After mounting speculation about which [...]

  • Aquaman 2018

    Film News Roundup: 'Aquaman' Hits $152 Million at International Box Office

    In today’s film news roundup, “Aquaman” has already grossed more than $150 million outside the U.S., Michael Masini joins “Birds of Prey,” and Freestyle buys the documentary “Shamanic Trekker.” BOX OFFICE More Reviews Tallinn Film Review: 'Winter's Night' TV Review: 'Vanity Fair' Warner Bros.’ tentpole “Aquaman” has taken in $152 million overseas in 36 markets, [...]

  • 'Winter's Night' Review: Enigmatic, Offbeat Korean

    Tallinn Film Review: 'Winter's Night'

    There are thousands of films about love’s beginning, and a great many about love’s end. But far fewer deal with a relationship’s late-middle: the spreading, sluggish delta of coupledom when decades of familiarity, if they have not bred contempt, at least threaten irritation. “Winter’s Night,” Jang Woo-jin’s playfully melancholic third feature, after the acclaimed “A [...]

  • Tomasz Kot UTA

    UTA Signs ‘Cold War’ Star Tomasz Kot (EXCLUSIVE)

    UTA has signed “Cold War” star Tomasz Kot. He has appeared in more than 30 films and 26 plays as well as dozens of television series. More Reviews Tallinn Film Review: 'Winter's Night' TV Review: 'Vanity Fair' Most recently, Kot has received award-season buzz for his starring role as Wiktor in Pawel Pawlikowski’s feature “Cold [...]

  • Kenneth Branagh's 'All Is True' Opening

    Kenneth Branagh's 'All Is True' Opening Palm Springs Film Festival

    The 30th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival will open on Jan. 3 with historical drama “All Is True,” starring Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, and Ian McKellen. Branagh, who will be in attendance at the opening night screening, directed from Ben Elton’s script about the little-known period in the final years of William Shakespeare. Branagh [...]

  • Actor and Activist Rodney Kageyama Dies

    Actor and Activist Rodney Kageyama Dies at 77

    Actor, activist and influentials member of the Japanese American community, Rodney Kageyama, died in his sleep Dec. 9. He was 77. The SAG member was known for roles in “Karate Kid IV” with Hillary Swank, Ron Howard’s film “Gung Ho” and the spinoff sitcom, and the TV movie “Hiroshima: Out of the Ashes” with Max [...]

  • Most Popular Films 2018: The Best

    9 Holiday Gift Ideas Inspired by This Year's Most Popular Films

    From superheroes to super nannies, 2018 was a year full of memorable characters — and memorable movies. Whether you’re a big film buff, an avid follower of a popular franchise, or have a couple movie fans in your life, here are nine gifts that capture the fun of some of this year’s biggest films. 1. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content