Funeral Parade of Roses

105 mins.
Directed by Toshio Matsumoto
NR
Japanese with subtitles
1969

Director Toshio Matsumoto’s shattering, kaleidoscopic masterpiece is one of the most subversive and intoxicating films of the late 1960s: a headlong dive into a dazzling, unseen Tokyo night-world of drag queen bars and fabulous divas, fueled by booze, drugs, fuzz guitars, performance art and black mascara. No less than Stanley Kubrick cited the film as a direct influence on his own dystopian classic A CLOCKWORK ORANGE.

An unknown club dancer at the time, transgender actor Peter (from Kurosawa’s RAN) gives an astonishing Edie Sedgwick/Warhol superstar-like performance as hot young thing Eddie, hostess at Bar Genet — where she’s ignited a violent love-triangle with reigning drag queen Leda (Osamu Ogasawara) for the attentions of club owner Gonda (played by Kurosawa regular Yoshio Tsuchiya, from Seven Samuri and Yojimbo).

One of Japan’s leading experimental filmmakers, Matsumoto bends and distorts time here like Resnais in LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD, freely mixing documentary interviews, Brechtian film-within-a-film asides, Oedipal premonitions of disaster, his own avant-garde shorts, and even on-screen cartoon balloons, into a dizzying whirl of image and sound.

Whether laughing with drunken businessmen, eating ice cream with her girlfriends, or fighting in the streets with a local girl gang, Peter’s ravishing Eddie is something to behold. “She has bad manners, all she knows is coquetry,” complains her rival Leda – but in fact, Eddie’s bad manners are simply being too gorgeous for this world.

A key work of the Japanese New Wave and of queer cinema, Funeral Parade has been restored in 4k from the original 35mm camera negative and sound elements.