Executive Koala – Minoru Kawasaki

21 Dec

Gozu

Nationality: I’ll give you one guess

Year: 2005

Executive Koala

Aaaagggghhhh – my brain . . . my brain!!!!! It’s dripping, I swear it’s dripping . . .

You know – I really thought I had plumbed the depths of Japanese weirdness.  The Happiness of the Katakuris, Gozu, The Glamorous Life of Satchiko Hanai, FLCL, Mind Games . . . pretty strange yes?  And would you believe that I was getting complacent?  Oh BOY – *serious tone of voice*:  Never get complacent at the Japanese.  Just . . . don’t, ok?

The Japanese have this great skill, you see, that eludes most western directors – that of just letting rip in great blasts of pure streaming lunacy – having fun with no consideration of genre, integrity, expectations, sense, logic and even sanity.  Creations filled with passion, fun, terror, kitsch, trash, j-pop, high art moments, silliness . . . essentially whatever you don’t expect when you least expect it.  If they can fuck with your expectations, they will do so with great joy.  And if you said “but wait a minute, that’s not so unusual – I’ve seen stuff like that before,” based only on some pale western examples of strangeness, then I would respectfully like to correct you.  No you haven’t! Sometimes you catch whispers of it – browsing round online and glimpsing clips of Japanese game shows or getting dangerously close to otaku and catching hints of some of the more far out and obscure animations.  But even with Japanese movies and anime becoming increasingly popular in the ‘west’, this is a side to Japanese art that we rarely see in its purest form.  We think that Japanese films are ‘weird’ because we have seen Takashi Miike in action or reeled under the onslaught of FLCL, but really and truly, Miike is just the tip of the iceburg.  He is just weird enough to delight and surprise the David Lynch fans but the fact is that weirdness in Japanese culture extends way way – and I mean way beyond that.

Executive Koala

For the first half of the film, Executive Koala is pure psychological horror – from a deceptively normal opening, we slowly sink into the hallucinatory terror of your own mind crumbling and betraying you.  It is actually quite disturbing – after all, what is the worst kind of horror?  When something horrible comes at you out of the blue – or when something horrible seems to be being revealed within your own mind?  For Tamura, an ordinary day at the office becomes a nightmare as hints of his past – suggesting that he is much more horrific than he knows – unexpectedly begin to surface, suggesting buried and forgotten memories of an unspeakable nature.  You have to feel for the poor guy.  Here we are with a main character that we quite like, and suddenly we discover alongside him, that he is a horror movie villain.  It’s an unusual and highly serious shift of perception that is refreshing amid the usual blanket good guy / bad guy attitudes of so many films.

Well – it would be highly serious if he wasn’t wearing a freakin’ koala costume!

Executive Koala

After the psychological horror first half of the film, it then gets really strange.  How do you bring something like this to a conclusion?  A song and dance number court case, maybe?  Dreams within dreams?  The most absurd (and almost unscreencapable) marshal arts sequence ever set to screen?  An ending that is so random that . . . umm, hang on [Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler Spoiler].  Is this all a descent into madness and fantasy, told in lurid J-pop style?  A continuation of the same slide into terror that started off so seriously, somehow getting so extreme that it passes beyond horror forever?  Probably.  Are there any levels of ‘reality’ to unthread from this and do we have any idea at what point this thing descended into dream?  You know what . . . I don’t know the answer to any of those questions for certain!  Most directors might have got nervous by this point – thinking “woah – this is getting a bit bizarre now.”  But not Minoru Kawasaki.  “Strange?  Ach, ya sods – you don’t even know what strange is!  This isn’t strange.  What else can we possibly do to make this film actually ‘unusual’.  Oooooh yeah – let’s have the lead wear a freakin’ koala costume!”  There’s one brilliant moment when a girl in a shop stops and does a double take.  “A koala?” she demands in complete bewilderment, staring after him.  That is the only moment in the film when anyone seems to express any kind of surprise at this weird surrealist touch.  Is this then the nearest to real that the film gets?  Real in the sense of being conscious of its own unreality, even from within it?  Is this whole thing, right through to the almost creepily perfect and totally reasonless happy ending, simply taking place in the mind of a lunatic?  A lunatic who may or may not be in (did I mention this?) a freakin’ koala costume.

Probably such speculation is utterly pointless and I really should just shut up.  Just get on the freakin’ train and enjoy the ride, people.  But hmm – the answer is probably yes . . . and that lunatic is probably the director.

Executive KoalaExecutive Koala

There’s no sense deluding myself of course.  I want to rave and cheer – because this is just unique in my experience.  Because it is utterly surprising in every way.  Because it is a work of freakin’ genius in its own way and is darn well made as well.  But . . . there’s no sense deluding myself . . . People will dismiss this as silly – or meaningless – or both – and this film is probably going to be too much for many people.  You possibly need a brain like mine, which has been specially trained for years on strange stuff, including loopy anime and a decided overdose of Takashi Miike, and has lost any fear of creativity without road signs, in order to really appreciate this one.  Maybe I am just an Otaku who is in waaaayyy to deep, in other words.  Or maybe not.  You decide!  If you have any interest at all in just how strange creativity can become, you owe it to yourself to watch this film.  This IS pop art, folks.  Who cares if it isn’t in a gallery – it is pure Japanese pop art genius.

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One Response to “Executive Koala – Minoru Kawasaki”

  1. ptz ip camera January 17, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

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