Woche der Kritik 2021 Review: HORSE TAIL (Kuthiraivaal)
Saravanan is having a strange morning. He wakes up from a technicolour dream of a verdant field that is both night and day simultaneously, with an itch in his tailbone. It turns out that overnight he has somehow grown a horses tail. And it is a long and glorious one that has a mind of its own causing his posture to twitch and writhe. It's less funny than it is profoundly awkward.
What to do? His desk job at the bank is out of the question. Getting drunk on his own generous supply of Scotch whiskey is an option. Instead, he grabs a breakfast beer from the corner, armpit sniffing, vendor, chats with his dog-loving neighbour, hops on a bus, and goes to see the mystic grandma who lives in the forest.
Thus begins the strange journey that is Horse Tail. The flashy debut of a pair Tamil directors Shyam Sunder & Manoj Leonel Jason (under the wing of Attakathi, Kabali director P.A. Ranjith). Less of a coherent narrative, and more an eccentric collection of short stories, labyrinthine enough in their connection to evoke Jorge Luis Borges, but cinematically indie and swinging for the fences to remind me of directorial debut of Canadian video artist, Daniel Cockburn, You Are Here.
Experimentally-staged vignettes abut against discourses metaphysics, folk-lore, and modern isolation. Karthik Muthukumar's cinematography favours rainbow nightmares one minute, sumptuously framed pastorals the next, and wack-a-doodle dutch angle shots or his own hybrid technique of speed-ramping and step-printing in between. It is disorienting, lively, witches brew.
From my perspective and set of expectations, "hilarity will ensue, right?" The most surprising thing about Horse Tail, is that the film aims less for "ain't this weird" Quentin Dupieux style antics or comedy, and more of a map to meaning of modern living as a burlesque of the human condition.
As Saravanan continues to find ways to imbibe to avoid the immediate reality of his violet, green & pink hellscape of an apartment - one which seems to be blasting Vivaldi's Four Seasons on a perpetual Youtube stream - he dreams of children exploring the countryside of fantasy kingdom, somewhere over the rainbow. Like many a Tamil or Telugu film, there is a lengthy flash-sideways before returning to 'reality.' Only reality here is a kaleidoscope of insurance scams, uncomfortable work-place meltdowns, and a senseless local murder. A running gag has the moon, irrationally, to have abandoned following its normal celestial cycles.
Horse Tail is a maze (or an itch, or a tale) that the viewer cannot escape, and a snapshot for our surreal times, the global state of denial. The film is not fun, but it is vital. Maybe that is enough.