A key film in the Japanese New Wave, Toshio Matsumoto’s Funeral Parade of Roses is also a milestone in the canon of LGBTQ+ cinema; the unapologetic representations of Tokyo’s queer youth subculture were ground-breaking in 1969 and remain fresh today. An experimental, freewheeling, docu-fiction hybrid, the film, like the characters it portrays, defies categorisation. The non-linear story centres around Eddie (transgender actor Pita), hostess at Bar Genet, who becomes embroiled in a love-triangle with reigning drag queen Leda (Osamu Osgasawara) for the attentions of club owner Gonda (Yoshio Tsuchiya). With its self-referential image making, and playful blending of genres, the film is reminiscent of the work of Jean-Luc Godard and the Nouvelle Vague directors.
‘Funeral Parade of Roses’ has everything you could want in a late-1960s avant-garde Japanese version of Oedipus Rex. It is set in Tokyo’s colourful underground scene, a landscape populated with outsiders: gay men, drag queens, avant-garde filmmakers, potheads and foreigners, all living life on their own terms. In a provocative twist, genders are switched: the protagonist, Eddy (Oedipus) is a drag queen instead of a king. Furthermore, he kills his mother and sleeps with his father.
Violent protests had characterised much of the decade, from resistance to a controversial security treaty in 1960 to student revolutions in 1968. By the following year, Tokyo’s citizens were indifferent. Demonstrations and street-theatre appear throughout the film, blurring the line between art and politics, but people hurry past.
Director Matsumoto Toshio juxtaposes documentary footage, experimental imagery, flashbacks and even a nod to Pasolini’s Oedipus. Like so many pieces of a broken mirror, the jumbled images slowly start to reflect each other as the truth emerges. The film ends with tragic, shocking violence - or is it another subversive performance?’
- Conor Hanratty, Theatre & Opera Director
Content warning: this film contains short periods of flashing images