Monday, July 15, 2013

Funeral Parade of Roses

Baka no soretsu; drama, Japan, 1969; D: Toshio Matsumoto, S: Peter, Osamu Ogasawara, Yoshio Tsuchiya

The story follows a gay man, Eddie, who dresses as a drag queen and works as a Madame in a night bar. Eddie has an affair with the bar owner and drug consumer, Gonda, and is thus at odds with Leda, who also wants to have Gonda for himself. Eddie enjoys walking dressed as a girl without people noticing it on the streets, but has flashes of his mother who beat him because he tried on lipstick. While catching her with another man, Eddie stabbed them both. The only info about his father is a photo from childhood, where his dad's face has a hole because it was burned out by a cigarette. Eddie also films an underground gay love story. Eventually, Gonda spots the photo with the hole and realizes Eddie is his son. Gonda kills himself with a knife, while Eddie mutilates himself.

"Funeral Parade of Roses" is one of the most unusual and strangest cult art-movies from the 60s, not only because director Toshio Matsumoto dared to speak out about a (then) taboo topic of gay people but also due to the extremely hermetic technique the movie was filmed, almost breaking and abandoning even more rules about cinema (and linear narration) than Godard. Except for the beginning and the ending, practically every scene could be rearranged and presented at any given time in the movie without the viewers noticing it, since they almost work as a stream-of-consciousness where the drag queen Eddie either remembers something of has a hallucination of something. Precisely due to such an inventive presentation, where everything is so hyper-stylized, Matsumoto manages to 'detach' himself from the serious topic and even present it playfully and humorous at numerous occasions: when the gang exchanges a joint and 'relaxes', the scene cuts to the photo of the four Beatles smiling on the wall; when Eddie and Leda start an argument, comic-book speech bubbles appear from their mouths with written words as they insult each other, like "jerk" or "c**t"; the three drag queens walk pass by three real girls on the street, and turn their heads away just as the girls turns around to take a better look at them, upon which the frame freezes in an amusing moment... And at least one technique - the fun, long fast-motion scene where two men take on forever until they pick up all their things and drugs in a suitcase in tune to Rossini's "William Tell Overture" after hearing the police is coming - was used in Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange", in the scene where Alex has sex with two girls. "Parade" is not flawless - the anti-narration can become annoying at times, numerous references are simply an overkill whereas the 'gay Oedipus' plot twist does not work - yet overall, it is a double ode, both thematically and stylistically, to living freely without limits, and requires at least a second viewing for the viewers to understand it better.


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