FANTASIA FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! What can I say about Wonderful Paradise? Not much, honestly, because it will ruin the absurdist, Troma-esque fun of the production. There’s a nonsensical, manic energy to the film, and it crisscrosses genres more than most films dare to.
Shuji Sasaya (Seikô Itô) is a disgraced man. He fell prey to bad investment scams and has a gambling problem. So now he must sell his sprawling family manse to make up for everything he has lost. We meet the entire Sasaya family on the day of their move. Shuji’s daughter, Akane (Mayu Ozawa), is extremely displeased with her father and the fact that they’re moving, so she decides to throw a wrench in her father’s plans by throwing a party in the backyard.
She posts about the party on Twitter, and eventually, all sorts of people come crawling out the woodwork to join the moving-day festivities. Before people start showing up, Shuji’s son, Yuta (Soran Tamoto), invites a homeless man into the house. This simple action sets a spark to the chaos that belays the rest of the day. The movers have a hit and run with Shuji’s ex-wife, Akiko (Kaho Minami), who heeds the call of Akane’s Twitter post. Neither Akane nor Shuji wants to see Akiko, but Yuta is thrilled.
“…movers have a hit and run with Shuji’s ex-wife…”
I didn’t know what to expect when I sat down to watch writer-director Masashi Yamamoto’s mindfuck of a film, but it certainly wasn’t what I experienced. I don’t know much (read: anything at all) about the filmmaker, but based on the names of his previous productions, Tampon Tango and Junk Food, I assumed, correctly, that Wonderful Paradise would be weird. As you may or may not know, weird movies are one of my reasons for living, so I was very pleased.
The film is totally absurd. There’s a wedding, a funeral, a festival, an alien (?) coffee bean, and more. There are many characters, and it is impressive how co-writers Yamamoto and Suzuyuki Kaneko connect all these seemingly random and utterly bizarre people and events. The film can be quite a visual acid trip at times. The cinematography by Shintaro Teramoto and the production design by Natsuki Kioka are impeccable and help build the surreal atmosphere. The house itself is a character, so the location scout deserves a major round of applause as well.
I am genuinely unable to fathom anything Wonderful Paradise could potentially be missing. There are choreographed dance numbers, cool martial arts tricks, and so much more. The kicker is that this surrealism is all under the guise of a house party movie. I’m sorry, Kid N Play, but none of your parties ever got this weird. If you like absurdist splatter comedy, then this will be your jam. I wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone who hase a taste of the absurd. Yes, some people will think it’s too weird, I’m sure. Don’t worry about them; there’s plenty of boring movies out there for such folks to watch.
Wonderful Paradise screened at the 2021 Fantasia Film Festival.
"…wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone who hase a taste of the absurd."