FANTASIA FEST: Popran (2022)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joseph Perry writes for the film websites Gruesome Magazine, The Scariest Things, Horror Fuel and Diabolique Magazine; for the film magazines Phantom of the Movies’ VideoScope and Drive-In Asylum; and for the pop culture websites When It Was Cool and Uphill Both Ways. He is also one of the hosts of When It Was Cool’s exclusive Uphill Both Ways podcast and can occasionally be heard as a cohost on Gruesome Magazine’s Decades of Horror: The Classic Era podcast.

If you hear that the very basic description of the new Japanese fantasy/comedy Popran is “a man’s penis disappears, flies around as fast as 200 kph, and he has six days to capture it or will lose it forever,” and are expecting merely 96 minutes of humor that ranges only from the sophomoric to the Rabelaisian, chances are you haven’t seen writer/director Shin’ichirô Ueda’s previous films One Cut of the Dead and Special Actors. Like those films, his latest effort starts out with a zany premise and finds warmth and poignancy in its protagonist’s journey.

What sets Popran apart from Ueda’s two aforementioned films is that it arguably follows a clearer path and focuses less on big reveals than its predecessors. That’s not to say that the film doesn’t offer its share of surprises, though.

Tatsuya Tagami (Yoji Minagawa) is the head of a profit-motivated manga app that eschews original work in favor of sticking to tried and true favorites. To get to where he is, he burned several bridges, including with his ex-wife and their child, his parents, and an ex–business-partner.

Tagami wakes up one morning to find that his penis has vanished, and he is left only with a small hole for urination. By chance, he learns about a group of men who have suffered the same fate, and that their penises and testicles have become “Poprans” — flying objects that roam freely in the skies of Japan. He’ll have to do some soul searching while looking high and low for his genitals.

Ueda takes the Hero’s Journey concept and runs with it, adding a large dash of dramedy dealing with regret, and humor that includes the uncomfortable and the whimsical. The director follows his own unique path in his work, and Popran is another fine flight of fancy from a highly imaginative and original cinematic voice.

Popran screens as part of Fantasia, which takes place in Montreal from July 14–August 3, 2022. For more information, visit https://fantasiafestival.com/en/

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