Funeral Parade of Roses

Studio: Cinelicious Pics
Directed by Toshio Matsumoto

Jun 07, 2017 Web Exclusive
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Funeral Parade of Roses, Toshio Matsumoto's freewheeling, taboo-busting 1969 update on the Oedipus myth, was dismissed by the New York Times upon its original release as "a mopey soap opera made by someone who has seen too many better movies". This is not a wholly inaccurate summation, all told, except that it is meant as criticism. Matsumoto's blend of drag audaciousness, knowing pop culture references, high camp and melodrama, New Wave editing acrobatics, audacious humor, and jarring violence seems both socially radical and a clear postmodernist bellwether now, but it's no terrific surprise that the square world of the late '60s wasn't quite ready for it.

As such, it's a canny move for two of LA's most adventurous film trawlers, Cinelicious Pics and The Cinefamily, to reintroduce the film for reconsideration now (with a crisp and clear 4K restoration, no less), at a time when trans visibility is such an integral part of the cultural conversation. Granted, it's never made clear if main protagonist Eddie (played with perfect, moody petulance by Japanese queer icon Pîtâ) is someone who really identifies as a woman or simply a drag queen, and the presentation of gender and sexuality isn't quite so enlightened as one might prefer now, but Funeral Parade of Roses is still an early adopter when it comes to telling sympathetic stories of gender fluidity. Its borrowed Oedipal structure might not sit too well if taken as a straight morality play, but that wouldn't be the most sensible or satisfying read of the film anyway.

Anyhow, if it falls slightly short in its social commentary, Funeral Parade of Roses makes up the difference in wild formal experimentation. With its onscreen speech bubbles, sped-up action to warbly organ music (think Benny Hill), first-person stumble cam, and jarring behind-the-scenes interjections, the film acknowledges its precedents (most obviously the Nouvelle Vague innovations of Godard and Luc Moullet) while also dropping a wealth of ideas subsequently picked up and recycled in A Clockwork Orange, Hausu, and countless others. Yes, the pacing could justifiably be called uneven, but then, you could say the same about a rollercoaster.

Funeral Parade of Roses admittedly isn't quite a "perfect" film, but its imperfections are part of its charm. Taken in whole, it is a classic of both queer cinema and experimental film, and it's a real boon to cinephiles everywhere that it's being made widely available again.

www.cineliciouspics.com/funeral-parade-of-roses

Author rating: 8.5/10

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