FUNERAL PARADE OF ROSES (1969) – The Dungeon Review!
After watching 1990s horror films for two months I was in desperate need of a palette cleansing. I have watched some breathtaking films in the past month and Funeral Parade of Roses may very well be the mother of them all. Director Toshio Matsumoto was a key figure in the experimental cinema movement in Japan and had made a handful of shorts starting in 1955 with Bicycle in Dream. You can watch several of Toshio Matsumoto’s short films at UBU.com (click here). I watched four of the films on this list; For the Damaged Right Eye (which contains some footage from Funeral Parade of Roses), Ecstasis (which is the short film made in Funeral Parade of Roses; although it does not linger for 11 minutes in the film as this version does), Mona Lisa (Matsumoto messes with a picture of Mona Lisa – super short and trippy) and Atman (break out the bong for this one). Funeral Parade of Roses, Matsumoto’s first feature length film was released in 1969 fourteen years after his first short. The film was funded by The Art Theatre Guild, who both produced and distributed it.
Funeral Parade of Roses was inspired by Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and is set in the high-energy and colorful world of Japan’s counterculture gay scene of the 1960s (I say “colorful” in a metaphorical sense as the film was shot in black and white). If you are not familiar with the story of Oedipus Rex it is a Greek tragedy about King Oedipus who murders his father and marries his mother. Funeral Parade of Roses focuses on drag queen Eddie working as a hostess in a Tokyo club overseen by Leda; her aging queen rival.
Funeral Parade of Roses is a visual extravaganza. Every last frame is perfect. The cast consists primarily of non-actors and everyone seemed comfortable and natural. The characters are charismatic and very watchable; particularly the lovely Pîtâ who plays Eddie.
Documentary style interviews where characters speak directly into the camera.
A lingering shot of a television screen jumping and wavering in and out.
An experimental film called Ecstasis; a trippy series of repetitive images.
A cartoony cat fight between two rivaling queens complete with conversation bubbles.
Funeral Parade of Roses constantly shifts in tone and style as it travels through the sexual, the subversive, the sweet and the strange. Matsumoto uses a variety of techniques to compliment his images like over-exposure, freeze frames and cross-cuts among a treasure trove of other treats. I was particularly fond of the aforementioned cat fight scene that is comically sped up. Funeral Parade of Roses is a hallucinatory impressionistic work of art; its images have firmly ingrained themselves in my memory. To quote one of the film’s characters “All definitions of cinema will be erased.”
I don’t claim to be an expert on drag queens but Eddie is without a doubt one of the most attractive drag queens I have ever seen. The fashion in Funeral Parade of Roses is extremely appealing to me; the wardrobe and hair gets me all excited. It is thoroughly reflective of the culture and decade in which it was made. Funeral Parade of Roses is a perfectly preserved time capsule.
Funeral Parade of Roses is a beautiful, unique, mesmerizing visual experience that is quite unlike anything I’ve seen before. A thousand thanks to David Arrate at My Kind of Story for turning me on to Funeral Parade of Roses. My highest of recommendations; a perfect score.
Dungeon Rating: 5/5
Directed By: Toshio Matsumoto
Starring: Pîtâ, Osamu Ogasawara, Toyosaburo Uchiyama, Don Madrid, Emiko Azuma, Yoshio Tsuchiya, Koichi Nakamura, Chieko Kobayashi