By Lazarus Rise
CONTENT WARNING: talk about violence and incest
*spoilers for entire film*
I first saw this film at a fundamental point in my life. I began reviewing movies for a cult-movie blog I created as a senior in high school; I felt it was fun to educate others on the kind of subversive, unordinary type of movies I stumbled upon. At that point in my teens, I felt lost and was consistently searching for weird media to keep me inspired.
When I saw Funeral Parade of Roses, I couldn't begin to understand how much of a cluster-fuck of the late 1960s, LGBTQ+ underground Tokyo it would depict, focused predominantly on the gay and transgender side. This film is a surrealist immersion of storytelling. Of course, campy moments play throughout, such as Eddie getting into a drawn-out bar fight with an older hostess, Leda. As it goes on, it shifts into uneasiness as the protagonist's mental state becomes more fragile. Eddie, the main character we follow, is a young drag hostess who lives her life primarily as a trans woman in and outside of her local bar. Eddie is successful among her clients, but struggles to balance work and personal life with her boyfriend, Gonda, the bar owner.
While feuding consistently with Leda (who is also in a relationship with Gonda) over acquiring the top hostess status, past traumas haunt Eddie immensely. Visions of an unknown murder and her mother's violent outbursts, particularly after being caught in makeup while wearing women's clothes, are present throughout.
As we follow Eddie's life, the world around her persists in fractured storytelling and imagery. There's a bit of social commentary on gay/transgender life in 60s Tokyo, albeit over the top. Japanese queer youth living as "gay boys" or drag queens give small interviews during the film on the state of their happiness; some admit they don't entirely understand why they dress as women.
Apparent during all of this is Eddie's struggle with her gender identity and how she is perceived by others. In a way, Eddie feels undeserving of gratification, however, hanging out with her artistic friends and working as a hostess allows her to pretend she’s content. To me, one of the pillars of Funeral Parade of Roses is dealing with one's gender expression and how a parent's rejection seeps into a child's life, or what it means being trapped by other people's perceptions of ourselves, at least during the majority of the story. It's also attention-grabbing in the sense that this film is filled with a cast full of beautiful-looking actors/actresses – with gracefully captured performances, but the ending stuns in a sudden and gruesome way.
Funeral Parade of Roses is loosely adapted from Oedipus Rex, and both end in a similar shocking manner, but with roles reversed. A flashback reveals that Eddie murdered her mother when she was younger. In the present day, the film cuts to her plotting to seduce her father at the bar, and she succeeds. Unable to live with himself after he makes the horrific connection, her father gouges his eyes out. Eddie immediately does the same, killing herself. It ends so unfortunate and seemingly out of nowhere. The director, Toshio Matsumoto, doesn't offer an entirely well-thought message for his film, but for what it lacks, it makes up for it by being an amusing, experimental film. It's difficult to perfectly sum up the experience that Funeral Parade of Roses provides, but I believe it holds wholesome, Christian values and teachings that the family can really enjoy together... No, not really, but I think it's worth a watch unless you're sensitive to topics like incest, brief flashbacks of abuse, drugs, and occasional nudity. It is certainly a lot to take in.
Lazarus Rise (he/him) is a writer, artist, and creative from Shreveport, Louisiana who now resides in Colorado Springs, Colorado. To stay up-to-date with Lazarus, follow him on Facebook and Instagram @dungeoncowboy. You can visit his official website here, dungeoncowboy.squarespace.com.