Journey to Mt. Fuji (2012) – By Joshua Samford

Having reviewed one of the "Mozzman" independent shorts before seeing Journey to Mt. Fuji, I had a slight understanding of what would be in store for me when going into this feature film. Japanese cinema has a long history of experimentation, but there’s something very peculiar about the Mozzman films. Directed by Cris Ubermann and written by star Yukita Kusunoki, this series seems to focus mostly on mixing a variety of genres and visual aesthetics in a manner that brings to life a violent attack on all senses. While there is a bit of plot mixed into the movie, for the most part audiences are expected to hang onto the visual life and beauty of the film rather than searching out a pure narrative. Sound kinda pretentious and overly arty? Well, it probably is, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it isn’t good. Journey to Mt. Fuji knows what it is, but it mostly asks for the audience to hang in there and give it a little bit of breathing room so that it will hopefully be given a chance to entertain you.

The plot for Journey to Mt. Fuji is very thin and somewhat tricky to decipher. Time isn’t always tangible in the Mozzman universe, so understanding the exact logistics of the plot can be a bit difficult. The only thing that seems sure is that Mozzman (played by writer Yukita Kusunoki) is a traveling philosopher from another planet. When he arrived here on Earth, he became an amnesiac and can not remember what his original mission was supposed to be. Now, he wanders Japan while having strange visions from his previous life. In this entry, Mozzman sets off on an adventure to Japan’s famed Mt. Fuji in order to help out a small child who has went into a comatose state. Mozzman actually has a very strong tie with children, which is due to their naive nature. Mozzman begins his journey, but soon runs into many troubles along the way.

Journey to Mt. Fuji takes advantage of several devices for telling its story, but most of all the filmmakers do seem to love visual collages. In almost every shot, there is a strange collage of video images being displayed at one time. For example: during any given static shot of Mozzman staring off into the distance, the background may feature another shot layered on top of it. So, while Mozzman may be seen in a brooding foreground, the background might feature a small child playing in a sea of colorful leaves. The borders of the screen might also be covered in a fog that has been added during post production, and it is nearly guaranteed that the color correction on the film is going to be absolutely bizarre. Every scene becomes a bizarre surrealist short film because of this oddball style, and it sorta works for the movie. No one should walk into Journey to Mt. Fuji expecting a clear and concise scifi tale, but if you have the right frame of mind – you should be able to appreciate the unusual nature of the movie.

Described by director Cris Ubermann as both a haiku put to film as well as cinematic jazz, Journey to Mt. Fuji is pure experimentation. It develops its own tempo and logic early on in the eighty minute running time, and you will find yourself either onboard for it or completely baffled by its strange algorithm. As far as I can tell, there is no true way to "understand" the film or this series. You can try to understand the character of Mozzman, since he is our own discernible logical tie within the movie, but mostly the poetic dialogue speaks in metaphors as well as broad statements that can only be understood by the filmmakers themselves. Yet, I have no problem with this. That is art, afterall. I only mention it because this will be a line that will certainly hold some viewers back from jumping on the Mozzman bandwagon. A weird-as-hell auditory and visual cacophony, you don’t have to "get" the movie – you just either dig its style or you don’t.

Holding both a devotion to science fiction cinema as well as pure art house sensibilities, Journey to Mt. Fuji is not a broad film. Although the back of the DVD case describes the movie as being a film that the entire family might like to sit back and enjoy, few pre-teens are going to be drawn to the acid-tripping sequences of pure hallucinatory insanity that can be found in this title. For good or bad, this is a series that carves its own niche. Like an abstract painting sitting within a fast food chain, the chaotic influences for the movie will help it gather its own steam. If you’re interested in reading more about Journey to Mt. Fuji, you can read about it at the official website: http://www.mozzman.com