Directed and written by Steven Ellison (better known to many as Flying Lotus), the hour-and-a-half film offers a glimpse into the lives of various California residents who have survived a catastrophic earthquake. However, surviving comes with a price — somehow the earthquake has left them all with a variety of deformities. Through the movie’s four vignettes loosely tied together in the form of channel surfing, viewers are submitted to a narrative that can be poignant and provocative one moment, and absolutely bizarre the next.
A part of the allure of Kuso is the sociological experiment it encourages — seeing how other people react to the film. Throughout the week Ellison premiered his directorial film debut in New York City with two showings — one at the House Of Vans and the other at Nitehawk Cinema. The venues are drastically different from one another — the former, hosts various events (concerts, movie showings) and resides inside a skate park, while the latter functions solely as a movie theater. So, experiencing Kuso twice in a row in different spaces with different people was revelatory, as our thresholds for the absurd were challenged in real time.
When considering the headlines of people walking out en masse during Kuso‘s Sundance premiere, it’s inevitable to assume the outcome would be similar at the film’s showing in New York City. But no one walked out at either, with audiences at both predominantly young, between the ages of 18 and 30. But, that doesn’t mean that people weren’t uncomfortable.