Funeral Parade of Roses

Funeral Parade of Roses ★★★★★

With subliminal Warholian vignettes, fragments of cinematic hapax legomena (if such term could be applied to the film industry), assaulting psychosexual imagery, fragments of societal ridicule, jaw-dropping personifications, a fractured chronology, revolutionary techniques of film editing, a ghastly and hypnotic camera work and metafilm self-references, Bara no sôretsu is one of the most enthralling, unpredictable and thought-provoking avant-garde experiments that international celluloid has ever offered to mankind.

It starts with a statement:

"I am a wound and a sword, a victim and an executioner."

Then it proceeds with an alienating world beyond our comprehension. That is the first invitation you will ever receive to turn off your screen or leave the theater, because this nearly-metaphysical parade of memoir fragments and inner turmoils (that is, at the end, a collective character study) refuses to be conventional. It is an ominous statement on alienation and the human spirit, which by definition, carries a complex psychological background, and is incessantly seeking for both physical and emotional means to be fully released to the hostile exterior: society itself.

This hostile exterior brings me to a valid perspective that can help the fascinated viewer to approach towards such difficult audiovisual material: its timing of release. The story takes a deep dive to a complex reality: the homosexual/transsexual counterculture in Japan during the 1960s, an era of "Easy Rider" escapisms, of liberalist feminism, of Woodstock-like celebrations, of Kenneth Anger's psychosexual/Satanic/experimental proselitism, of "Gimme Shelter" fanaticism and sexual liberation. That is the whole real life context surrounding the film and its creators. Why is the timing so perfect today, then? For two reasons: a) the glimpses overload provided by Matsumoto takes us right back to that era, and b) oppression is a relevant issue today. In this way, we have a comparison between the era of our fathers and ours for the sole, simple purpose of social reflection.

And finally, we have the unconventional nature of this avant-garde experiment. It carries emotional empathy, because the participants of transgender are seen as struggling victims. It carries a double moral, because their lifestyle is far from recommendable. It is explicit, because sexuality has several facets, sometimes erotic[1], sometimes disturbing[2], always unsettling[3] and nonetheless provocative, regardless of your sexual orientation. We all have the same impulses; whether to exploit them or not boils down to a matter of free will. This can be translated as:

It is a world...
[1] as human as yours,
[2] difficult to live in,
[3] and yet hard to understand.

Matsumoto also makes sure to make a statement on the different masks that a person carves throughout his life for assuming different personalities, most of the times different than the original self. However, these masks can also be borrowed, lent or exchanged. The reasons vary. Call them hypocrisy, fear, alienation, paranoia, denial or lack of self-acceptance, all are masks and equally important (and equally tragic!). Was this the director's main intention? It is irrelevant, and it isn't. Maybe the answer could be this simple, but then some metafilm references are thrown into the formula, featuring the real life actors commenting on the actual movie's content and on their own characters. Like the 60s did so many times with us, from Jean-Luc Godard (La Chinoise) and Vilgot Sjöman (I Am Curious - Yellow) to William Greaves (Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One), we are confused by these intertwining levels of filmed-or-documented, acted-or-improvised cinematic reality and suprarreality.

Let the film speak to you. It is not an enjoyable experience, or an entertaining one. This is not cinema to be enjoyed, but to be admired and/or dissected, depending on your response, and definitely mandates to be applied to your living present. Be warned, however: it also wears masks, but there is a deep message hidden within, its true mask-less personality, that represents its true essence.


P.S. You'll notice possible sources of inspiration for Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (1971) in more than one scene, not mentioning its portrayal of sex, violence and conflicts.

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