Cinema Review: Kuso | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, August 16th, 2022  

Kuso

Studio: Brainfeeder
Directed by Steve (aka Flying Lotus)

Jul 21, 2017 Flying Lotus
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I’ll start by acknowledging what you’ve probably already heard: Kuso is gross. Director Steve (AKA Steven Ellison, AKA genre-defying musical polymath Flying Lotus) has collaborated with animator David Firth to pull out all the stops — not to mention all the bodily fluids and secretions — to make people squirm, and damned if it doesn’t work. Between the gallons of semen, feces, and pus on display here, there’s plenty to make this high-concept disaster movie uncomfortable to recommend to a huge swath of the population.

Is it even worth recommending to anyone else, though? Well, that question’s significantly more complicated, and at press time, I’m still kinda parsing my answer to that. Certainly, it’s visually imaginative, and there’s plenty of gonzo humor that splits the difference between Cheech & Chong and Tank Girl. Disgusting though they may be, the costumes and visual effects are distinctive and expertly executed. It’s unsurprising, of course, that the music is mostly buck, with contributions from Aphex Twin, Thundercat, Kamasi Washington, and (of course) the director himself. The “anthology film” format is one I’m always glad to see exploited, and the way the film’s stories weave together is pretty deft, owing some debt to the willfully haphazard structure of Steven Soderbergh’s Schizopolis.

Much of the subject matter and humor, though, seems to rely on ideas Ellison and Firth had while stoned to the bone, which is all well and good, but not necessarily a recipe for a top-notch film of any kind. “Mr. Quiggle”, a section in which George Clinton plays a backroom “doctor” in a Coogi sweater helping Zack Fox overcome a unique sexual phobia with the help of a “friend” who lives… um, inside Clinton, is the stuff of deranged high school giggle sessions, but not much more, and it’s probably the most entertaining section (that particular section also gets highest points for visuals and costuming, and for covering a stalker Tim Heidecker in turds).

All sections are a visceral shock to the system, and it’s definitely to Ellison and Firth’s credit that they’re rarely boring. Still, aside from a vague hint of a sci-fi moral about the environment or some shit, it ultimately feels pretty hollow. That seems a shame, since Flying Lotus has made it clear on his records that he’s capable of going much smarter and deeper. Then again, Kuso is such a gnarly watch, there’s a good chance I missed something while averting my eyes. One day, it’s entirely possible I’ll have to go back and give it higher marks than I am right now. That said, I’m not terrifically excited to revisit it, at least until my stomach settles a little from the first go.

Author rating: 5/10

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