Funeral Parade of Roses

Funeral Parade of Roses follows Japanese drag queen Eddie through her crazy lifestyle in the Japanese transgender underground of the late 60’s. In this avant-garde remake of Oedipus Rex Eddie has upset the madame of her house by stealing the affections of the madame’s boyfriend. Eddie falls in love with and seduces the father figure and Oedipus plays out in the context of the swinging ‘60s, high style and well heeled.

“The drag queens of the piece practice the height of fashion and makeup to convincingly perfect the ‘gay boy’ look.”

This film is more style than story: romance, drag queen hierarchy turf war, fashion, drugs, clothes, and nights out on the town at gay bars. It would be a popular reality show in 2017. A note on semantics gleaned from the film’s Wiki entry: The title is a pun, “rose”/”Bara” in Japanese is similar to the use of the word “pansy” in English slang. Not a complimentary term. 

In Japan you actually have to put in some effort to be weird, so the drag queens of the piece practice the height of fashion and makeup to convincingly perfect the “gay boy” look.   

Shot in 1969 and originally released in 1970, the film was restored in 2017 and released in a beautifully remastered 4K digital version. This print is flawless, cool seamless black and white. It is worth watching for the quality of the cinematography and the vintage style alone.

The film goes meta a few times to show the making of the film including the sets, lights, camera, and crew as part of it, going so far as to review itself at the end and including screen test interviews with the featured actors as part of the movie.

Funeral Parade of Roses famously inspired Stanley Kubrick’s style in A Clockwork Orange…

Sex scenes in this film world go no further than kissing someone on the neck, which, if Eddie is to be believed is just the best thing ever. Symbolic eroticism, as I’d speculate actual sex acts wouldn’t play well even in an avant-garde Japanese film.

Funeral Parade of Roses famously inspired Stanley Kubrick’s style in A Clockwork Orange and you can see many moments and ways Kubrick borrowed liberally from it. It is fascinating that this film could exist in 1970 as a mainstream work of art and 47 years later would probably be relegated to online porn or arthouse sideshow.  A 4K DVD version will release in mid 2017 and as a cinematic and cultural document this is fascinating material, definitely worth your time.

Funeral Parade of Roses (2017) Written and Directed by: Toshio Matsumoto. Starring:  Pîtâ, Osamu Ogasawara, Yoshimi Jô.

8 out of 10

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