Swiss Army Man.
DIRECTORS: Daniel Scheinert, Daniel Kwan
STARRING: Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe
Daniel Radcliffe plays a flatulent corpse whom a wilderness-stranded Paul Dano rides to safety in "Swiss Army Man," an off-the-wall absurdist existential comedy from viral- and music-video oddballs the Daniels (AKA Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan). On one hand the most singularly unique competition title to debut at Sundance in ages, while on the other, a project still in drastic need of development (despite a tour through five different Sundance Institute labs, including one for mixing all those fart effects in Dolby Atmos), this movie wears its weirdness as a badge of honor--as well it should.
Imagine "Cast Away" meets "Weekend at Bernie's," as directed by Michel Gondry. The result represents not just independent cinema, but an emerging strand of what might be called "indifferent cinema"--wildly iconoclastic personal visions whose creators don't seem especially concerned about the ultimate commercial fate of their movies so long as they reach those who groove to the same strange worldview. In other words, if half an hour of fart jokes, poop gags and run-on masturbation talk inspired a goodly chunk of Sundance's world premiere audience to walk out early, the Daniels don't much care.
Hank, marooned on a tiny island, is about to end his life when a random corpse (Radcliffe's) washes ashore. "Manny" makes his presence known via a gaseous eruption; there will be many others, some so long and powerful that Hank can climb aboard the deflating body and ride it back to the mainland.
The film is at times deliriously dynamic, at others patience-grating in the extreme. Clearly, some (or all) of this is taking place in Hank's head, forcing him to re-evaluate his choices. What good is a Swiss Army Man, after all, if not to provide the tools for survival?
CREDITS: Produced by Jonathan Wang, Lawrence Inglee, Miranda Bailey, Amanda Marshall, Eyal Rimmon, Lauren Mann. EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS, Gideon Tadmor, William Olsson, Jim Kaufman. DIRECTED, WRITTEN BY Daniel Scheinert, Daniel Kwan. CAMERA (COLOR), Larkin Seiple; EDITOR, Matthew Hannam; MUSIC, Andy Hull, Robert Mcdowell; PRODUCTION DESIGNER, Jason Kisarday; SOUND (DOLBY ATMOS), Stephen Nelson; SOUND DESIGNER, Andrew Twite; SUPERVISING SOUND EDITOR/FARTS, Brent Kiser. REVIEWED AT Sundance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 22, 2016. RUNNING TIME: 95 MIN. CAST. Paul Dano, Daniel Radcliffe, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Antonia Ribero, Timothy Eulich, Richard Gross, Marika Casteel