FONOTUNE: AN ELECTRIC FAIRYTALE / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR & SCREEENPLAY: FINT / STARRING: FINT, KAZUSHI WATANABE, KIKI SUKEZANE, GUITAR WOLF / RELEASE DATE: TBC
Just what to make of Fonotune, the first non-factual feature film from Berlin artists FINT, depends largely on what you’re looking for in a movie; if you are after a tight story, with action points, beguiling dialogue, and a cohesive, satisfying ending then this is not the film for you. If, however, you are willing to immerse yourself in a starkly beautiful, minimalist road trip, set to a soundtrack of electropop, synthwave, and radio hiss, then you might just have found a great way to spend seventy-five minutes.
The story, if you can call it that, picks up with Mono, a man dressed all in black, who is walking. Somewhere. Mono, played by the director, is silent throughout, and constantly tuned into distant DJ Radio’s FONOTUNE station through his headphones. Radio is urging his listeners to make their way to Blitz, and there is an air of The End of the World about things. Along the way, Mono picks up and discards other drifters, all similarly tuned in to whatever’s out there in a sparse landscape; their names – Stereo, Analog, and Bubblegum – tell us nothing about them, or what’s happened to get them to this point, although there are tantalising hints that Stereo, at least, is not all about the music.
Fonotune is almost entirely filmed on location – in Tokyo, Berlin, and the deserts of New Mexico and Utah – and lingers lovingly on the empty landscapes and cityscapes dwarfing the often tiny walking figures. The soundtrack uses its radio gimmick to full effect, and there is a clever encounter with the Japanese noise band Electric Eel Shock which could be overlong if it wasn’t so ambitious.
FINT wears his influences – Jim Jarmusch, Shinichirō Watanabe, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and graphic design, amongst others – plainly on his sleeve, and there is much to love here for cinefiles who are that way inclined. It treads a similar path to Daft Punk’s Electroma, and the aesthetics invoke the work of their collaborator Michel Gondry. This is a film intended to be ART and it succeeds in its aim.
The movie ends with Analog opining, “well that was pointless, gotta find something new to do,” and it’s hard not to agree with him, although the point of Fonotune is to spend seventy-five minutes doing something exactly as useful as anything these characters can do in the world they inhabit.