Staff Pick: Funeral Parade Of Roses

“A powerful film that’s of its time while very much ahead of its time, Toshio Matsumoto’s ‘Funeral Parade of Roses’ will stand out in your mind for years after you experience it. Produced in 1969, the film is as culturally important as it is special and intoxicating, portraying drag queens and transfemininity in the underground gay scene of 1960s Tokyo, Japan. Considered radical at its time, the audience is invited to learn about the transfeminine protagonist Eddie’s world, including her psyche, memories, and trauma. A concoction of melodrama, comedy, horror, documentary, and experimental film, ‘Funeral Parade of Roses’ adds a unique representation of transgender identity, gender nonconformity, and sexuality to not just Japanese New Wave cinema, but queer cinema and the whole world. For this, I chose Toshio Matsumoto’s film as my staff pick and hope you come to the Roxie to see it.” – Zann

Zann’s staff pick is one of the most subversive and intoxicating films of the late 1960s, director Toshio Matsumoto’s shattering, kaleidoscopic masterpiece: a headlong dive into a dazzling, unseen Tokyo night-world of drag queen bars and fabulous divas, fueled by booze, drugs, fuzz guitars, performance art and black mascara. No less than Stanley Kubrick cited the film as a direct influence on his own dystopian classic A Clockwork Orange. An unknown club dancer at the time, transgender actor Peter (from Kurosawa’s Ran) gives an astonishing Edie Sedgwick/Warhol superstar-like performance as hot young thing Eddie, hostess at Bar Genet — where she’s ignited a violent love-triangle with reigning drag queen Leda (Osamu Ogasawara) for the attentions of club owner Gonda (played by Kurosawa regular Yoshio Tsuchiya, from Seven Samuri and Yojimbo). One of Japan’s leading experimental filmmakers, Matsumoto bends and distorts time here like Resnais in Last Year at Marienbad, freely mixing documentary interviews, Brechtian film-within-a-film asides, Oedipal premonitions of disaster, his own avant-garde shorts, and even on-screen cartoon balloons, into a dizzying whirl of image + sound.

Whether laughing with drunken businessmen, eating ice cream with her girlfriends, or fighting in the streets with a local girl gang, Peter’s ravishing Eddie is something to behold. “She has bad manners, all she knows is coquetry,” complains her rival Leda – but in fact, Eddie’s bad manners are simply being too gorgeous for this world. A key work of the Japanese New Wave and of queer cinema, Funeral Parade was restored in 4K from the original 35mm camera negative and sound elements in 2017.

1h 45m
Toshio Matsumoto
Japanese w/ English subtitles
First Showing
June 4, 2023