Swiss Army Man seems right up the alley of directors DANIELS, the nom de plume of duo Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, who have created shorts like "Interesting Ball" about a guy that gets sucked up the butt of another and the DJ Snake/Lil Jon music video "Turn Down for What" featuring a man with a dancing penis. This isn't just because of their apparent obsession on the body and its weird but universal functions, but also for their high energy octane-fueled editing. The two directors have gone on record saying that they create what keeps them interested.
It's funny that my viewing of this movie came on the heels of Neon Demon, which also divided viewers at its screening and also has a sort of obsession with a corpse. However, while Refn's aim is to scandalize (oft-repeating Neon Demon came from his desire to depict the 16-year old girl that exists in him) while finding something dark in the surface beauty of the modeling world, DANIELS started with what they knew was a difficult premise -- a farting corpse -- and took it as an uphill challenge to find something beautiful and transcendent in the lowest common-denominator.
It's not strange that this movie is so strange. What's unexpected is how bizarrely sweet it is. Despite this being their first full-length feature, DANIELS has a story that never flags because of an organically evolving pair of characters. Their easy use of CG doesn't obstruct, probably because they don't attempt to think through what is rational. It works because it's a a series of unrealistic gags rooted in a real relationship. It's like looking at the world through the physics of a child. And this is wildly appropriate because most of the story is about how we learn and see the world as children, and thusly what is natural or weirdly considered unnatural in society.
The movie is fittingly made possible by pairs of buddies -- the first being the two directors, who feed off of each other's energy. The second, of course, is composed of Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe, who are perfect in their roles. While it's typically an insult to say that an actor's best role was as playing a corpse, it's meant in the best possible way here. Radcliffe's cock-eyed, unblinking portrayal of the corpse dubbed "Manny" is at turns sentimental and disturbing.
The third pair is Andy Hull and Robert McDowell of Manchester Orchestra who constructed a soundtrack that holds the absurd and organic energy of the movie, as haphazard and yet whimsically intricate as the many constructions Paul Dano's character builds.
For a movie about a dead man, as well as one who was on the verge of taking his own life, Swiss Army Man is more about beginnings and an affirmation of love and a relationship without shame. Tackling taboo topics perhaps, but that's sort of the theme. Fun, definitely unlike anything else you'll see this year, and a sweet allegory on what or who gives meaning to our lives. At times it makes you uncomfortable, but only in the best possible way -- in a way that makes you question yourself why should this be uncomfortable? Unconventional, but demonstrative of what art can do for us.