A feverish collision of avant-garde aesthetics and grind-house shocks, Funeral Parade of Roses takes us on an electrifying journey into the nether-regions of the late-’60s Tokyo underworld. In Toshio Matsumoto’s controversial debut feature, seemingly nothing is taboo: neither the incorporation of visual flourishes straight from the worlds of contemporary graphic-design, painting, comic-books, and animation; nor the unflinching depiction of nudity, sex, drug-use, and public-toilets. But of all the “transgressions” here on display, perhaps one in particular stands out the most: the film’s groundbreaking and unapologetic portrayal of Japanese gay subculture.
Cross-dressing club-kid Eddie (Pîtâ) vies with a rival drag-queen (Osamu Ogasawara) for the favours of drug-dealing cabaret-manager Gonda (Yoshio Tsuchiya). Passions escalate and blood begins to flow — before all tensions are released in a jolting climax.
With its mixture of purely narrative sequences and documentary footage, Funeral Parade of Roses comes to us from a moment when cinema set itself to test, and even eradicate, the boundaries between fiction and reality, desire and experience. Yet Matsumoto achieves a zig-zag modulation between pathos and hilarity that makes his picture utterly unique: a filmic howl in the face of social, moral, and artistic convention.