Sunday 24 May 2020

Funeral Parade of Roses, directed by Toshio Matsumoto 1969

The Lovely 'Eddie'
Funeral Parade of Roses is a very unusual yet fascinating movie directed by Toshio Matsumoto in 1969. Clearly an experimental film, yet it’s so much more, offering a unique insight into a hidden subculture of Japan in the late 1960s.

Funeral Parade of Roses is an influential film which has encouraged other styles of filming for other directors. The film is said to have encouraged Stanley Kubrick to adapt A Clock Work Orange to film in the style that he did. I also see elements of other later movies too. Toshio Matsumoto himself was influenced by the films of the French New Wave, especially the work of Jean-Luc Godard.

Eddie and her friends face a surprise

Funeral Parade of Roses can be classified as a surreal, transgressive, avant garde and a queer punk drama, with documentary inserts. The film is a ‘film within a film’. The film breaks off occasionally from the drama into the real life of the actors, with interviews and some behind the scenes footage. This actually helps the non sequential, and at times psychedelic timeline of the drama, this works very well keeping the viewer interested.
The Young Eddie Tries Lipstick

Who are the actors? Toshio Matsumoto used people from the real life underground scene at the time. The main ‘gay boy’, Eddie is very pretty and you may enjoy the erotic moments within the film. The actor playing Eddie was already a gay celebrity at the time. There is no bad acting and everything is well filmed in a basic manner giving a fly on the wall effect, and a sense of realism for the audience.

Japanese tranny bars aren't like they used to be

 I didn’t feel I was watching a film that was made fifty years ago. To Western eyes the world of Japan seems surreal in itself, let alone the world of the Japanese trans bar, adding to the films merit. The film felt ahead of its time and contained subject matter that would not have been allowed in the UK when initially released.

 Some of the lovemaking content reminded me of the early Japanese Pink or Pinku eiga films but then we are moved back to the drama or even the documentary dimension of the film. These sequences do fetishise the transgender character Eddie, somewhat, but then again another trans character states that, 'all Eddie has is her sexuality'.

The usual terms of transgender do not apply within this film. As I understand there is no translation for our modern understanding, so the term ‘gay boy’ is used throughout the film. Their meaning used in the film does not seem to mean homosexual either as the characters are asked if they prefer men or women. The soundtrack is very 1960s with a psychedelic note to it, but it also has a modern quality about it too. Rather like a composer today creating a 1960s soundtrack for a modern film.

The Film Within a Film Technique

I personally approached this film with some trepidation. I just purchased the newly released Bluray, and I was not sure what to expect. The trailer (see below) does give a good account of what to  expect. I personally enjoyed the film. This really is not for everyone with its surrealism, imagery and mixed timeline. I enjoyed the glimpse into an underground transgender world of Japan in the late 1960s. Think of it as FX’s ’Pose’, done without the gloss in gritty Japanese style.

Eddie having a long lingering shower

 You’ll notice I have not mentioned the story at all. This is perhaps because the film itself and what it offers is more important than the story. But for those you want to know what it’s about here is a synopsis.

The film follows the trials and tribulations of Eddie and his male lover Jimi, whilst trying to keep their affair secret from Jimi’s other lover. Eddie struggles with his identity and we are shown his younger life with his unaccepting mother, suffering molestation and a murder for good measure. All this set against the lives of other transgender women in the underground ‘Gay Bar’ (read:’Trans Bar’) scene in Tokyo. 

The film has been beautifully restored with a new 4K scan. I saw it on a 100” screen and it really was a perfect restoration. The Bluray can be purchased at Amazon on the BFI (British Film Institute) label.

 Here is the trailer:

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