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dissecting the sick genius of flying lotus’ ‘kuso’

Man, this film is satisfying. It’s a visceral experience cobbled together from all the dark, sick shit you’ve ever seen. Remember goatse? Remember one man one jar? Remember lemonparty? Remember when you accidently saw someone’s head get cut off after clicking on that weird looking gif? Those images you saw that you can never get out of your head, the ones that made us lament on what a sad, lost, desensitised generation we’d become? We’ve seen a lot of the bad that comes out of the deep pits of the internet; the alt-right recently being a disturbing example of just what happens to men who have grown up contributing to and lurking on message boards (you know I mean 4chan) filled with racist, sexist and homophobic humour. It would be easy to demonise these forums, producing the meme-magic spouting supporters of Trump, the white men who could never get girlfriends and those whose teenage angst has turned into full-on bitterness in adulthood.

We might have ignored the other side of this; the positive effect this culture could be having on a generation of true creatives. Kuso is a slime smeared, glowing, colourful masterpiece pulled straight from the pulsating, veiny heart of our sickest online habits. It involves the artists who created the first disturbing viral content that some of us saw. It is not made for the internet generation. Instead, it captures its zeitgeist perfectly in over an hour and a half of continuous, unwatchable but really, really watchable shit porn.

Co-written by Steven Ellison – better known as music producer Flying Lotus – and David Firth, Kuso is Ellison’s first feature after releasing a few shorts through his production company Brainfeeder Films. Ellison is not only referencing these early internet visuals but using the people actually involved in creating them. Bringing in David Firth, one of his “favourite animators ever”, is such a good move. Firth has always been one of the best at making worlds that are both sick and surreal, full of self-mutilating, mentally disturbed characters – and his sticky fingerprints are all over this.

Ellison’s marvelously spontaneous decision to slide into filmmaking is truly inspiring. This is an artist who has the resources, skills, talent and energy to do what he wants to do and pull it off beautifully. Several tales are told, each self-contained yet interspersed throughout with interludes of twisted 3D textural animations, after a seemingly rapture-inducing earthquake. The survivors are blistered and degraded, living in filth. The makeup and practical effects are brilliantly vile; everything appearing overblown and theatrical, twisted and glitched with animation and visual effects. The sound effects are so striking, so real, that it takes a while to get used to. My head snaps to the side when I hear a slurping, convinced for a second that the noise is coming from someone sitting in the front row of the cinema.

Something that really stuck with me was the representation of women in this film. Female presence on the internet has somehow always been a controversial thing. Anonymity makes men feel comfortable with slinging insults at women. This is shown repeatedly in the film with its rotting tongue firmly in cheek. Motherhood is heavily involved in the roles of all the women we see. One character is lost in a ruined building, calling for her baby and talking to a disembodied voice. Another is a cynical stoner, stuck with two fuzzy, multi-coloured aliens with animated screens for faces. She finds out she is pregnant and goes to an abortion clinic where she is handed a form with options of which shape of coat hanger she’d rather go for. Another regularly-featured woman we see is the abusive mother of a strange boy who force feeds him what looks like a bowl of shit-soup. Ellison exposes the mummy issues of the messed up youth and the place of women on the internet. I truly hope this was done intentionally, because it’s so necessary to address it as hatred towards women becomes more and more normalised.

So what is it that makes this film such a beautiful work of art? It’s hilarious, for a start, leaving us giggling at the grotesque; in awe of our deepest, sickest fantasies appearing on screen. I find myself laughing knowingly, as if this is a joke that only some of us can get. That’s true – it is – but I think this film can and will connect with a much wider audience than anyone anticipates.

The audience were either groaning, laughing or a strange mix of both, and then the credits rolled. We were silent, waiting until the screen was completely black before the staggered applause appeared. For so long, we’d forgotten where we were or what normal behaviour was.

Despite that, I never looked away. I truly believed, that after reading reviews out of Sundance about scenes of mothers chewing through concrete to reach lost babies, that there would be some scenes I would have to shy away from. I was prepared to look down briefly whenever something got too much; too dark or too violent. But instead, my persistence was confirmation of the hardening of my eyes and spirit to the cum sucking, shit splattered, dick mincing, hole invading horrors of the internet.

I’ve now seen Tim Heidecker fuck a pulsating sack of flesh, covered in holes and nipples. I’ve seen a cricket come out of George Clinton’s stretched asshole, spraying green gunk in the mouth of his patient. I’ve seen an inter-dimensional being rip a foetus out of a boil-covered woman and throw it at her face (genuinely the only moment of the film that made me think ‘aw that’s dark’. It was still funny, though!).

Trust me, this fucked up film is a future cult classic.

Kuso had its European premiere at the 2017 Glasgow Film Festival

 

Shona Spalding

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