I'll never forget the first time I witnessed the awesome spectacle of George Michael's "Too Funky" video. I was already borderline obsessed with fashion in the mid-1990's and thought highly of Michael's supermodel-laden "Freedom 90" video, but the visual candy of "Too Funky" as designed, styled and directed by then notorious fashion designer Thierry Mugler made the voyeuristic appeal and "freeing" acts of destruction that comprise the "Freedom 90" video seem trite by comparison. I don't care how precious and pretty Linda Evangelista looked as she lip synched inside her sweater, I'd rather see her (along with Christy Turlington, Tyra Banks, Eva Herzgovina and, my favorite, Nadja Auermann, to name a few) strutting her actual supermodel stuff on an actual catwalk, flaunting actual fashion while George Michael repeats, "everybody wants a lover like that," which is precisely what the "Too Funky" music video delivers, and in such a fabulous manner that it cannot possibly be copied -- sorry En Vogue.
So, how about that "Motorbike" dress? Pretty amazing isn't it? Certainly not for everyday wear, but a girl's gotta have options. I remember thinking this playful ensemble shocking, in a good way. Actually, after having just viewed the 'director's cut' of the "Too Funky" video, I got to thinking about what the definition of shocking was a little over ten years ago as far as the mainstream media is concerned. Of course, I got to thinking about everything Madonna: her "Lucky Star" midriff beginnings, her metal-bound Sex book, Erotica, the "Justify My Love" video and a particular scene from her Blonde Ambition tour documentary Madonna - Truth or Dare where Madge is informed by Canadian police that she'll be arrested if she touches herself suggestively during her performance of "Like A Virgin." With Madonna the list goes on and on, but if one were to judge her overall shock value by the percentage of the audience that sings along to her tune, counting both lovers and haters alike, I bet there wouldn't be any shocking findings at all, at any point in her career. Perhaps she really has done it all. And if that be the case, what in the world can be deemed shocking today? For my part, I'd like to submit Katsuhito Ishii's film Funky Forest: the First Contact (two disc DVD now out from Viz Media) for review, as it's the most shocking thing I've seen recently.
So far, I love all the Ishii films I've been able to lock my sights on: Sharkskin Man and the Peach Hip Girl, Party 7, Taste of Tea -- I love them so much I cannot pick a favorite; they're like candy. One of the main reasons I felt shock when I watched Funky Forest for the first time is that it fulfilled all my expectations while successfully deflating them at the same time. It's like when someone decides to give you a 'sexy' cake for your birthday. Of course you didn't expect to get a cake shaped like giant genitals, but you did expect cake and there is no question about whether or not you're gonna eat it. But is it tasty? Funky Forest is a tasty cake of a movie diguised as disjointed, patchwork quilt handstiched by your reclusive little Edie Beale looking, ex-showgirl aunt who happens to moonlight as a Chris Cunningham mutant who watches too much TV Carnage. Threads of several stories are woven loosely with only a few coinciding; however, belly laughs and nervous giggles abound as situations break off, start up and proceed to get weirder and weirder. It's unlike any of his previous films; it's certainly funky and totally fun.
Three reasons to watch:
1. Tadanobu Asano (pictured above, left). A talented, attractive fixture in Ishii's films whether he's starring in them or otherwise shining Johnny Depp-ness on them. In fact I like to refer to him affectionately as the Depp of Japan-- he's just that like/loveable. Like Belinda Carlisle, I get weak when I look at him sometimes, just like the Depp. Susumu Terajima, the guy on the right above, is another reason to watch. He's brilliant.
2. Girls, cute ones: running, dancing, making woodsy music, playing ping pong and sporting ponytails in exciting new ways. They're nothing like supermodels wearing barely-there metallic bustiers, but they're fresh-faced and entrancing with their dreamy, steamy comedic sensibilities.
3. The dancing -- all of it, including this gem of a clip from a scene where the "unlucky with women" brothers organize a singles picnic where all the hot women invited, or any women for that matter, fail to make an appearance...
P.S. See if you can pick out actor Yoshiyuki Morishita = the Japanese Steve Buscemi!