The audience-testing art-film "Kuso" is the the first feature from avant-garde hip-hop musician Steve Ellison, a.k.a. Flying Lotus — a man who clearly grew up watching the midnight movies of yore. There are echoes of David Lynch, Alejandro Jodorowsky, David Cronenberg, and even Frank Zappa's "200 Motels" and Neil Young's "Human Highway" in Ellison's surreal, often stomach-turning exercise in shock and awe.
"Kuso" functions as a sort of video-album. There are through lines, mostly having to do with an earthquake in L.A., which unleashes some sort of plague of open sores. But the movie is mostly a series of sketches, united by Ellison's preoccupation with the scatological. At times, "Kuso" feels like a literal adaptation of all the feces-focused tracks from classic Parliament/Funkadelic records — which probably explains the film's George Clinton cameo.
Some scenes resemble alt-comedy Adult Swim shows, and feature some of their stars, such as Tim Heidecker and Hannibal Buress. Others are animated, in a variety of styles, from stop-motion to kaleidoscopic collages to culture-jamming mash-ups. (The best of the latter takes an old '70s episode of "Match Game" and superimposes new mouths on Gene Rayburn and Richard Dawson.)
"Kuso" won't be for everybody. It's gross, it's repetitive, and if it has a point, it's hard to discern. But it's not artless. Every densely layered image of oozing pus and gassy orifices is as imaginatively rendered as it is disgusting.
Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes
Playing: Cinefamily, Hollywood; streaming on Shudder