Kuso (NR)

Drama 86 min. July 21, 2017
By April Wolfe
It's nearly impossible to categorize the first feature-length film of Steven Ellison (aka Flying Lotus, the experimental beatmaster, music producer and rapper). Made up of multiple, wildly varied vignettes that intersect and revolve around the theme of a chaotic post-apocalyptic Los Angeles, where every surviving human is covered in grotesquely bubbled sores, Kuso is an astounding feat of animation, humor and practical effects. Also, George Clinton plays a Svengali doctor who can cure all your ailments … as soon as you lure the crustacean from his ass with a song — a cappella or with fresh beats, whichever you prefer.

It might sound like what's become known as "body horror," but what's unsettling here isn't limited to the sores and the fleshy gore. So thoroughly conceived that it demands appreciation if not quite love, Kuso offers gross-out, Afro-future horror -- and ideas -- for the dank-memes generation.

Vintage and contemporary Japanese video game art, with explosions of color from every direction, pervades his animations, though with the adult themes of hentai -- witness a cave jam-packed with blood-squirting breasts and writhing tentacles. These vulgarities are indicative of the dreamlike, free-associative logic of meme culture more than they are a considered provocation. (They're certainly not meant to be sexy.) The animation, in fact, takes on a warped, psychedelic, DeepDream quality. Everyday things -- especially body parts -- become primal, menacing.

Ellison pairs his beautiful, bizarre creep-out experiments with excellent live-action story lines that at times prove furiously funny in the darkest way imaginable. While Adult Swim's white male–centric lineup traffics in similar non-sequitur gross-out humor, Kuso possesses an outsider's POV.
Flying Lotus Hannibal Buress, Anders Holm, Tim Heidecker, George Clinton, Byron Bowers David Firth, Flying Lotus Shudder

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