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Funeral Parade of Roses (rewatch)

Posted by martinteller on July 1, 2012

Director Toshio Matsumoto takes the Oedipus myth and turns it inside out, setting it in the world of Tokyo transvestites.  Eddie — played by “Peter”, who would later give a very memorable performance as the fool in Ran — is the rising star of the gay bar “Club Genet” (Genet himself having contributed the landmark “queer cinema” film Un chant d’amour).  A rivalry arises between Eddie and the club’s “madam” Leda (Osamu Ogasawara, in his only role) and the owner Gonda (Yoshio Tsuchiya, a longtime Kurosawa player, but contrary to Matsumoto’s assertions, played a farmer in Seven Samurai and not one of the titular characters) is caught in the middle.  Also going on is a film-within-the-film being directed by “Guevara”, political rallies in the streets, Eddie’s flashbacks to his troubled childhood and a whole heap of avant-garde tricks.

The film largely concerns itself with masked identities, and masks behind masks, and reflects these layers of illusion in its construction.  We are frequently reminded that this is a movie, even the powerful and disturbing climax is undercut by a TV announcer’s commentary and tease for the next program.  The film is fragmented and self-aware, repeating scenes or playing them out like a slapstick comedy (Kubrick famously took inspiration from the sped-up action for A Clockwork Orange).  The “plot” of the story is put on hold for joyful, marijuana-fueled bacchanalia reminiscent of Flaming Creatures.  These techniques are relentlessly exciting and ever-surprising.  The revolutionary filmmaking comments on the revolutionary lifestyle of the characters, themselves not directly involved with but simpático with the revolutionary politics of the protesters.

But if the film has a major flaw, it’s that the distancing techniques perhaps work a little too well, making it a tough movie to get attached to.  Matsumoto crafts some intriguing drama and pulls you into it while pushing you out of it.  But not every movie needs plot-driven emotional hooks, and on a deliberately artificial, melodramatic level the film hits its mark.  A wonderful mosaic filled with unusual characters and an anything-goes freedom.  Rating: Great


3 Responses to “Funeral Parade of Roses (rewatch)”

  1. Geneva said

    I’ll immediately grab your rss as I can not find your email subscription link or e-newsletter service.
    Do you have any? Please let me know so that I could subscribe.

  2. […] 76. Funeral Parade of Roses (1969, Toshio Matsumoto) […]

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