A feverish collision of avant-garde aesthetics and grind-house shocks (not to mention a direct influence on Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange), Funeral Parade of Roses takes us on an electrifying journey into the nether-regions of the late-’60s Tokyo underworld. In Toshio Matsumoto’s controversial debut feature, seemingly nothing is taboo: neither the incorporation of visual flourishes straight from the worlds of contemporary graphic-design, painting, comic-books, and animation; nor the unflinching depiction of nudity, sex, drug-use, and public-toilets. But of all the “transgressions” here on display, perhaps one in particular stands out the most: the film’s groundbreaking and unapologetic portrayal of Japanese gay subculture.
Cross-dressing club-kid Eddie (played by real-life transvestite entertainer extraordinaire Peter, famed for his role as Kyoami the Fool in Akira Kurosawa’s Ran) vies with a rival drag-queen (Osamu Ogasawara) for the favours of drug-dealing cabaret-manager Gonda (Yoshio Tsuchiya, himself a Kurosawa player who appeared in such films as Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, and High and Low). Passions escalate and blood begins to flow — before all tensions are released in a jolting climax that prefigures by nearly thirty years Tsai Ming-liang’s similarly scandalous The River.
With its mixture of purely narrative sequences and documentary footage, Funeral Parade of Roses comes to us from a moment when cinema set itself to test, and even eradicate, the boundaries between fiction and reality, desire and experience; consequently, the film shares a kinship with such other 1969 works as Masahiro Shinoda’s Double Suicide and Ingmar Bergman’s A Passion [The Passion of Anna]. Yet Matsumoto achieves a zig-zag modulation between pathos and hilarity that makes his picture utterly unique: a filmic howl in the face of social, moral, and artistic convention. The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present Toshio Matsumoto’s Funeral Parade of Roses for the first time outside of Japan on any home video format.