Published on October 29th, 2005 | by Greg0
HIFF #2: Executive Koala
The Hawaii International Film Festival is bringing over 200 films from 40 countries to Honolulu, and they were nice enough to invite us to attend. This is the second article in a series of reviews of the festival, please check out our other coverage.
If you have seen their last movie, The Calamari Wrestler, you know that director Minoru Kawasaki and writer Masakazu Niigita have an oddball sense of humor, and a penchant for putting actors in animal suits. If you haven’t seen it, don’t worry- Executive Koala is better, and not simply because the costumes completely work this time.
What do you say about a movie where the lead actor is a Japanese businessman in a koala suit, his boss is in a rabbit suit, and The Executive Koala is seeing a shrink regularly? I guess you can only start by saying that it works- they don’t play it for laughs very often, and the rest of the cast seems perfectly comfortable with the weirdness. Just so we’re clear, the audience is to assume that he is a koala- it’s not supposed to be a suit, or some weird cosplay thing.
It must be pretty challenging for the actors and director to try and make something emotionally powerful when your leads are wearing masks and more than a bit limited in their movement. And that seems to be the main answer to the obvious question: “Why in the hell would you put your actors in costumes, if not for comedy?”
“So we’ll have to work harder on the story, the characters, the dialogue, and not rely on simple facial cues to express feelings. Oh, and because it’s kind of kookily Japanese.”
You can’t help feel sorry for the Executive Koala. His girlfriend has died mysteriously, much as his wife did a few years ago, and he is barely able to… well, bear it. But does he give up and turn back to the old addiction, eucalyptus? No! He throws himself into his work, expresses his complete devotion to the pickles company he works for, and tries to negotiate a business deal with a Korean kimchee manufacturer. We won’t spoil too much, but be prepared for a scene in a strangely Asian-centric Alcatraz, and some fairly scary scenes of animal cruelty… of the kind where the animals are cruel to people.
The Executive Koala deserves your love. Clever, offbeat, it’s a “horror” movie of a completely different stripe.