Toshio Matsumoto, one of the great cinematic rebels and non-conformists, passed away this month back in 2017 at the age of 85. Matsumoto was a fierce artist and boundary pusher who challenged his viewers as much as he enlightened and entertained them. Here is a short piece I wrote about his absolutely breathtaking 1969 work Funeral Parade Of Roses back in 2013, along with some vintage clippings.
It’s a film unlike any other and Toshio Matsumoto was a filmmaker like no other.
Thinking of Toshio Matsumoto’s 1969 cinematic powerhouse Funeral Parade of Roses…a brick hurled through a window of complacency…a raging kick to the face of traditional narrative cinema…a retelling of Oedipus that transforms that classic legend into something altogether new.
The questions one gets asked after typically viewing a film are mute in regards to Funeral Parade of Roses.
“What’s it about?” and “Did you like it?” have no place here and are like asking someone if they had ‘fun’ at a protest against oppression.
Product of its time?
YES but in the best way possible. This has passion and anger that simply no longer exists in today’s cinema. We’ve traded soul and intensity for a day at the mall, glued to small films on small screens that fit in our pockets.
The Plot of Funeral Parade of Roses doesn’t hold my attention…instead, it is the elements that it transcends in every frame that hits me (I beg for its punch time and time again). Opening shot…blinding white light. Is that a boy and a girl? Boy and a boy? Unclear, until it pulls into focus and throws us into a labyrinth of confusion that questions gender, sexuality, family, life, death, and beyond.
Warhol, Morrissey…their deconstructive techniques are apparent. Rollin’s Rape of the Vampire is its bloody sister-in-arms from a year before. Brakhage (sure), Deren (of course). How about Kubrick, who loved Funeral Parade of Roses so much that he paid tribute to it stylistically and spiritually in his A Clockwork Orange. Ultimately this is punk rock before punk rock…before punk rock was exploited and made meaningless. That brick through the window reflects the student riots happening in Paris, Japan, and all over the free-thinking world in 1969.
The art of deconstruction….destruction of our scripted roles in life, love, and death. It’s that final shot of Godard’s Weekend with the ominous “End of Cinema” flashing on the screen taken several steps further. It’s a beautiful monster that no modern special effects house could muster. It’s a party film with a wild youthful abandon breaking through every moment…Superbad for the art house as a celebration of questioning gender roles and rampant unhinged sexuality. And that ending has the visceral impact only perhaps Deodato later stumbled upon.
It pops with an eye-gouging intensity that builds and builds until a wonderful moment when an old man stumbles exhausted onto the screen and thanks everyone for attending. Thank you and you are very welcome! A little moment that could have derailed the film completely, but this bold and audacious act is like the film itself…a joyous revolution turning a mirror back to the audience.
Toshio Matsumoto defiantly channeling Lou Reed’s “My Week Beats Your Year” in the purest cinematic way imaginable.
-Jeremy Richey, Originally Published at Moon in the Gutter 04-14-17-