The desert is a ghostly white. The hustler talks dirty, a helmet-wearing radio DJ provides perpetually hyped commentary and the fan ventures forward, unperturbed by it all. This is the fascinating opening to director FINT’s first narrative feature, Fonotune: An Electric Fairytale — that is if the film can even be regarded as a feature (running at 74 minutes), or a narrative for that matter. Journeying through blank cities and wide deserts towards the final gig of his rock star hero Blitz (Guitar Wolf), the undeterred Mono (FINT) retains about him a bleak sense of isolation, even as he collects and loses companions.
From the start, Fonotune: An Electric Fairytale’s colour palette is childishly (but somehow perfectly) simplistic. Mono’s black clothing and shock of white hair contrast the opposite colours on Stereo (Yûho Yamashita), a young prostitute clinging to him but somehow confined to the bounds of the empty city. Their over ear headphones with attached antennas suggest a strange development on a steampunk atmosphere — their music plays from vinyls and cassettes in this pseudo-future. Joining them is Analog the drifter (Kazushi Watanabe), a rebel who doesn’t conform to the colour scheme. Escaping exact definition, Fonotune: An Electric Fairytale is in some ways a love letter to the great American road movie, but one where the characters share their experiences in contented, determined silence.
Building a still, two toned world around its characters, Fonotune: An Electric Fairytale marvels at its own eccentricities: a band playing for their small audience, rocking out so hard that their headphones fall off; clear and colourless soda in plastic cans for no other given reason than “because fuck water.” FINT’s strength as a director is in the delightful minimalism of the piece, leaving more questions about the situation and characters unanswered than most other films would even bother to ask. Fonotune: An Electric Fairytale hints at impending apocalypse but leaves itself open. It is entirely possible to assign a wholly more optimistic meaning to the events, though — the film’s beauty is in its lack of condescension.
For all its attempts at a meaningful direction, Fonotune: An Electric Fairytale leaves a little too much work to be done by the audience. FINT aims for a Lynchian balance of story and mystery, but he undershoots — there’s a finite amount of time that watching someone walk at a measured pace through a whitewashed background remains interesting. Questions along this expedition intrigue but occasionally baffle; the film doesn’t shy away from nudity but jarringly blurs out sexual organs, and the replacement of one female character for another on the quest seems arbitrary at best.
As the film reaches its climax, it fails to quite materialise. “That was pointless,” says one character, a sentiment that might be hard to argue with at this point. Fonotune: An Electric Fairytale can’t escape feeling like a zany music video concept, lacking the energy or plot to sustain a feature. For all the beauty and allure that FINT’s wacky film offers, the emptiness strikes hardest, possibly not in the way the director intended.
Dan Sareen (@WanttheMoonCo) is a London based film critic and enthusiast. He regularly writes reviews for online publications including Flickering Myth and Culture Whisper. Dan is a lover of all genres, but finds particular enjoyment in crime movies.