Cult Classics: Dead Leaves

dead leaves index

366 Weird Movies is one of my favourite sites on the net as it’s led me to watching some absolutely deranged films, and I’ve a real soft spot for such things. So thanks to them I’ve seen films like The Apple, Forbidden Zone and Paprika, but this might be the craziest movie they’ve recommended so far, a Japanese anime from 2004 by director Hiroyuki Imaishi which moves at an incredible rate and is one of the most absurd, strange and delightfully grotesque films ever made.

It begins quite quietly with a naked woman and a guy with a tv for a head sitting together, having no idea who they are or where they came from, but that’s about the only time it takes a moment to breathe as the next thing we know they’ve committed a robbery and the police are chasing after them. After they’re caught they’re sent to a prison on the moon called Dead Leaves, though why it has such a name is never explained, and seconds later they’re being force fed and then having the shit sucked out of them, one prisoner is sentenced to death for shitting too much, before a bout of sex frees them and then it’s one long insanely violent sequence as they try to escape.

The violence is so over the top it’s gloriously funny and impossible to take seriously, which was clearly the filmmakers intention. This is an exercise in the extreme, creating something which is as mental as possible and taking an absolute delight in doing so. There’s a lot of slaptick, scatalogical humour, and a fairly childish and perverse take on sexuality, but the film never stops being playful, grotesque, weird, and an epileptics worst nightmare, yet it somehow manages to be oddly lovable, at least if you’re in the mood for something so preposterous that it takes violent cinema to it’s absolute limits and is completely ridiculous.

The animation is full of sharp lines and bright colours, it’s as if comics artists Brett Ewins and Shaky Kane were fused together, driven mad by such an event and then forced to create the most demented work of their careers. Which is saying something given the beautifully warped art both of them have been responsible for over the years. It’s a running joke that the film refuses to explain quite what’s going on, with characters losing interest in bizarre events just as they might be revealed, but enough is given away that it makes some sort of vague sense. Not that the plot matters in any way, this is just an excuse to create some of the most outlandish images ever seen.

I’d completely understand why some might hate it, if you’re not in to this genre and don’t find ultra-violence and sci-fi lunacy amusing then it’s definitely not for you, and given how fast it moves in the wrong mood you might find it exhausting to view. But my only complaint is that at 46 minutes long (discounting 9 minutes of credits) it’s too short, I could happily have watched a full length feature packed with this madness even if my eyes would probably have exploded afterwards, as they came close to doing so as it was.

Alex Finch.
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