Cinema Strikes BackContact

NewsReviewsDVD CalendarContestsFilm FestivalsMoviesPeopleInterviewsLinksAboutContact
Funeral Parade of Roses
Posted on 01.08.07 by Jeff @ 9:21 am

AKA: Bara no soretsu
Country and Year: Japan (1969)
Director: Toshio Matsumoto
Starring: Peter, Osamu Ogasawara, Yoshio Tsuchiya

Review By: Jeff
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 4 stars (very good)

Funeral Parade of Roses takes place in, and serves as a valuable document of, the underground drag scene in late 1960s Tokyo. A confrontational, one-of-a kind work, the film is alternately gritty, arty, gory, and campy. This is a movie that could not have been made at any other time, or in any other place. But Funeral Parade of Roses is not just a celluloid time capsule; it is also a carefully crafted work of art.

The film is a retelling of Oedipus Rex, as well as a tale of backstage rivalry between two divas. The film primarily concerns a love triangle, in which the film’s protagonist, a young drag queen named Eddie, and an older drag queen named Leda, fight over the affections of a man named Gonda. Gonda is the proprietor of the Bar Genet; Leda runs the bar, and Eddie is her closest rival. Interspersed with this main narrative thread are various digressions and subplots, including a flashback to Eddie’s traumatic childhood, pseudo-documentary interview segments with the actors in the film and other drag queens, the exploits of a hippie filmmaking collective, and a few slapstick comedy sequences. The film ends tragically and gruesomely.

In his commentary track, director Toshio Matsumoto compares the film’s structure to a “mosaic.” The comparison is apt. The director breaks his scenes into tiny fragments, and then jumbles their chronological order. While each fragment is nearly incomprehensible in isolation, in the aggregate they constitute a comprehensible narrative. Although Matsumoto contends on his commentary track that there is “no significance” to how the film is structured, that clearly is not the case. As Matsumoto himself concedes at another point on the commentary track, his fragmentary technique is intended to simulate the way one can suddenly recollect a distant memory.

In addition to slicing and rearranging his narrative, Matsumoto employs a variety of other avant-garde devices, some of which were pioneered by Jean-Luc Godard. (It is probably no coincidence that, subsequent to the production of this film, Matsumoto’s assistant director translated Godard’s oeuvre into Japanese.) For example, screens of text appear at intervals throughout the film, commenting on the events and themes. (Interestingly, this device was resurrected recently by Kinji Fukasaku in his film version of Battle Royale). Also, to confront the viewer with the mechanics of the filmmaking process, many scenes are preceded by leader and/or a clapboard. To that end, a subplot of the film concerns the making of an underground film starring Eddie and the other drag queens at the Bar Genet; the viewer becomes increasingly unsure which scenes take place in the film’s main narrative and which are part of the “film within a film.”

The cinematography is just as carefully composed as the narrative. The largely handheld camerawork is remarkable; nearly every scene — even those featuring a flurry of chaotic activity — features deep focus, neatly balanced compositions, and dramatic shadow effects. The love scenes feature beautiful, high contrast, almost abstract close-ups of androgynous body parts, and are particularly breathtaking. The filmmakers even adeptly shoot several scenes on location inside a moving vehicle, whereas nearly every similar scene in mainstream Japanese films from this time period was shot in a studio using unconvincing rear projection effects.

Nonetheless, Funeral Parade of Roses is not as far removed from the mainstream Japanese film industry as one might imagine. Notably, the actor who plays Gonda, Yoshio Tsuchiya, was one of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai! Moreover, the noted director Masahiro Shinoda (Double Suicide, Pale Flower) has a cameo in the film, as do many other figures from the Japanese art world. While most of the other actors in the film are amateurs, Matsumoto extracts excellent performances from them; they exhibit none of the blankness or overacting that one usually associates with amateur performances in films.

Notwithstanding these performers’ taboo-bursting depictions of sexuality, significant aspects of Funeral Parade of Roses are certainly problematic to the contemporary Western viewer. Although couched in classical allusion, at bottom this is yet another tale of a miserable queen with mommy and daddy issues who is doomed to a brief and tragic existence. One wishes Matsumoto would have presented a less fatalistic tale of gay Japanese life, or at least a less stereotypical one. Further, Funeral Parade of Roses is certainly a view from the outside, not the inside, of gay and countercultural life. Tellingly, almost all of the transvestite interviewees in the film’s quasi-documentary passages are asked loaded, trick questions, such as whether they ever plan on getting married. Moreover, the film’s depiction of drug use seems naive and unconvincing; the film equates drug use with pot parties where young people go-go dance in their underwear.

Beyond go-go dancing, the film is filled with other references to Western culture: from Jean Genet to Che Guevara to the Beatles. Given these Western influences and the film’s self-consciously “underground” attitude, once cannot help but compare it to The Chelsea Girls, one of the seminal American underground films of the time. The Chelsea Girls displays a nonjudgmental empathy for its gay and drug-addled subjects that is light years beyond the lurid, violent depictions of sexuality and drug use in Funeral Parade of Roses. Nonetheless, Funeral Parade of Roses is clearly the more rewarding, entertaining and accomplished of the two works; its gorgeous deep-focus photography, complex structure and layers of references stand in sharp contrast to the repetitive, overlong and haphazardly filmed The Chelsea Girls, which is a chore to sit through and appears to require the use of chemical substances to fully appreciate. While I would never watch The Chelsea Girls again unless I were paid to do so, I could watch Funeral Parade of Roses many more times, and would probably discover new details each time I saw it.

DVD DETAILS

DVD Company: Eureka!/Masters of Cinema (http://www.eurekavideo.co.uk/moc/)
Release Date: August 21, 2006
DVD Region Coding: Region 2
Extras: Director’s audio commentary, video interview with director, theatrical trailer, promotional gallery, 40-page booklet

Masters of Cinema’s presentation of Funeral Parade of Roses is nothing short of stellar. The movie looks absolutely pristine, which is remarkable for an underground film of this vintage. The director’s commentary (in Japanese with English subtitles) provides valuable insight, as Matsumoto alternates between discussing the film’s themes, explaining his filmmaking technique, and pointing out various cameos. Mercifully, the video interview with the director is not duplicative of the audio commentary; instead, Matsumoto discusses his influences and explains how underground films such as his were produced and financed. The lavish booklet contains two lengthy essays. Musician/producer Jim O’Rourke (Sonic Youth, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, etc.) provides an essay that explains how the film was shaped by politics, the Japanese film industry, and Matsumoto’s own career. Roland Domenig’s essay sets forth the history of the Art Theatre Guild, the institution that produced Funeral Parade of Roses.


Filed under: General and Movie Reviews and Movie Reviews: Japan and DVD Reviews and DVD Reviews: Japan and Rating: Good ★★★ and Contributors: Jeff and DVD Companies: Masters of Cinema
Comments:

2 Comments »

  1. I just sow this movie at some polish noncomertial cinema( I’m from Poland).All I can say ,it’s great.I don’t know much abaut japanes films,but this one i like a lot. Must see ,If you are someone envolved in visual arts.

    Comment by Daniel Szeligowski — March 29, 2007 @ 3:45 pm


  2. Wonderfully shot film: no other director plays with black and white contrast so beautifully.

    Comment by Ivona Poyntz — November 15, 2012 @ 6:11 am


RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>

(required)

(required)



Search

Latest Movie News

WordPress database error: [Can't create/write to file '/tmp/#sql_c36_0.MYI' (Errcode: 30)]
SELECT DISTINCT * FROM wp_posts LEFT JOIN wp_post2cat ON (wp_posts.ID = wp_post2cat.post_id) WHERE wp_posts.post_date <= '2014-09-19 14:49:29' AND ( wp_posts.post_status = 'publish' OR wp_posts.post_status = 'sticky' ) AND wp_posts.post_password = '' AND ( wp_post2cat.category_id = '2' ) GROUP BY wp_posts.ID ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC LIMIT 0, 5

 

* Shusuke Kaneko
* Malik Bader
* Nobuhiro Yamashita
* Sabu
* Johnnie To
* Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg & Nick Frost
* Bong Joon-Ho
 
Recent Comments
Dev: I think most of the obvious pleacs have all been used so much that
Anura Padeniya: The movie, Three Yellow Cats is available at Amazon with other Kommissar X movies, but
John Adams: MY TRIBUTE TO KUNG FU MASTER his movies are fantastic will miss JIM KELLY a
hans: David, you need to check your facts. Avid hk movie watchers will remember that Anthony
suresh: ramsay brothers plz make horror movie like veerana and tahkhana im huge fan of ur
Harry: Lot of homoeroticism in the film, as the retarded thugs eye off and grapple with
May: I love Death note and all about them. but, specially L. Lawliet and Matsuyama Kenichi. You're so
Michael Edgecumbe: Where can I obtain any form of copy of this film? It was shot in the
JANAUTICA DAVIS: OZONE IS SO CUTE
SANJEEV: How to get the site from i can download full HORROR MOVIE PURNA MANDIR could

Movie News
Australia
Canada
France
Germany
Hong Kong
India
Israel
Japan
Malaysia
New Zealand
Pakistan
Poland
Singapore
South Korea
Taiwan
Thailand
Uganda
UK
USA
Vietnam

By Type:
DVD News
Movie Quotes
MP3 Podcasts
Obituaries
Production Info
Rumors
Trailer News
Trivia

External Article
External Interview

By Studio:
IFC Films
Milkyway Image
Shaw Brothers
Sony Pictures
Warner Bros.
More Studios >

Movies
2007
Bug
Grind House
Rogue

2006
Adam's Apples
Apocalypto
Casino Royale
Descent, The
Exiled
Funky Forest
Pan's Labyrinth
Scanner Darkly, A
Superman Returns
Sympathy for Lady Vengeance


Latest Reviews

WordPress database error: [Can't create/write to file '/tmp/#sql_c36_0.MYI' (Errcode: 30)]
SELECT DISTINCT * FROM wp_posts LEFT JOIN wp_post2cat ON (wp_posts.ID = wp_post2cat.post_id) WHERE wp_posts.post_date <= '2014-09-19 14:49:29' AND ( wp_posts.post_status = 'publish' OR wp_posts.post_status = 'sticky' ) AND wp_posts.post_password = '' AND ( wp_post2cat.category_id = '8' ) GROUP BY wp_posts.ID ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC LIMIT 0, 5


Movie Reviews
By Country:
Australia
Canada
Czech
Europe
Germany
Hong Kong
India
Indonesia
Iran
Italy
Japan
Russia
Spain
South Korea
Sweden
Thailand
Turkey
UK
USA

By Rating:
Great ****
Good ***
Average **
Poor *

By Author:
Charlie
David
Jeff
Pete

By Guest Writer:
Brian
John
Mike G.
Mike M.
Wade

Cable:
Cable Series

External Reviews

People
Argento, Dario
Bale, Christian
Chan-wook, Park
Cheh, Chang
Chow Sing Chi, Stephen
Craig, Daniel
Freeman, Morgan
Giamatti, Paul
Gilliam, Terry
Howard, Ron
Hark, Tsui
Jaa, Tony
Jackson, Peter
Jee-woon, Kim
July, Miranda
Kaige, Chen
Kar-wai, Wong
Kurosawa, Kiyoshi
Kuriyama, Chiaki
Lau, Andy
Miike, Takashi
Miyazaki, Hayao
Myung-se, Lee
Nolan, Christopher
Spielberg, Steven
Suzuki, Seijun
Tarantino, Quentin
To, Johnnie
Tse, Nicholas
Vaughn, Matthew
Yen, Donnie
Yeoh, Michelle
Yimou, Zhang
Ziyi, Zhang
More People >

Archive
  • 2014
  • 2013
  • 2012

  • RSS Syndication

    Add to Google

    Subscribe in NewsGator Online

    Add Cinema Strikes Back - Covering the World of Film to Newsburst from CNET News.com

    Add to My AOL

    Add to netvibes

    Subscribe in Bloglines

    Add to The Free Dictionary

    Add to Bitty Browser

    Add to Plusmo

    Subscribe in podnova


    Credits and Copyright
    Proudly powered by WordPress. All content © 2004-2005 Cinema Strikes Back.
    Theme by Theron Parlin