Funeral Parade of Roses (Japan – 1969 – 4K Restoration)



Apparently acknowledged by Stanley Kubrick as an influence on A Clockwork Orange, Toshio Matsumoto (1932-2017)’s Japanese cult film, Funeral Parade of Roses (1969), is released theatrically in a brand new 4K restoration.

Shot in glorious black and White, Funeral Parade of Roses follows the adventures of Eddie, a popular transgender figure active at nightclub Genet,  in the infamous Shinjuku district.  Eddie befriend a group of young revolutionaries, artists and filmmakers during a period of social unrest.

A personal rendering of the Oedipus myth (one sequence features the Japanese poster to Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Oedipus Rex),  Funeral Parade of Roses has much to do with avant-garde and contemporary art in portraying the subculture of 1969 Tokyo, especially Shinjuku. It uses constant fractured narrative (Matsumoto was Continue reading

29th Tokyo International Film Festival: Love Letter (1995)



The TIFF Japan Now section brought back Shunji Iwai’s first feature film, Love Letter. Hiroko (Miho Nakayama) writes a letter to her dearly departed Itsuki at his childhood address. By an odd twist of fate, she receives a response from a woman with the same name, who’s compelled to keep writing.

Filmed in blustery, slushy weather, the outdoor scenes have a tangible dampness. Bluish tones and overcast skies are the setting in an otherwise warm tale. There are Continue reading

29th Tokyo International Film Festival – Classics: Swallowtail Butterfly



Yentown. Drugs, prostitution, poverty. Tramps and scavengers society has deemed undeserving of even a proper burial upon death. Immigrants, orphans and people with no identity live in Yentown. Swallowtail Butterfly (1996) was a sensation at Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival and won the 1998 Fantasia Best Asian Film award. It was the start of a lovely relationship between the festival and director Shunji Iwai. This week, the same film showed at the Tokyo International Film Festival as part of the Japan Now section.

The plot, images and characters are still valid in 2016. The story is told in three languages (Chinese, English and Japanese), and follows the protagonists’ evolution in their quest for the Self and their role in society. Jump cuts and quick pans build tension Continue reading

29th Tokyo International Film Fest : A Bride For Rip Van Winkle



Shunji Iwai is known for his lengthy films, and sometimes certain scenes are superfluous. However, due to intricate interpersonal relationships and surprising turn of events, excess length can be forgiven. The first half hour of A Bride For Rip Van Winkle builds the characters but is largely forgettable in the overall plot. Once the story gets rolling, it is a sentimental look at life.

There is a vaguely feminine touch throughout. The scenery and camera angles tend to beautify female characters that would otherwise be utterly ordinary looking. The imagery feels almost subjective, as if seen through female eyes rather than Continue reading

Remember: Belladona of Sadness ( Eiichi Yamamoto, Japan, 1973)

Belladonna of Sadness Japanese B1 film poster.jpg



Belladonna of Sadness is a psychedelic erotic epic. It is the tragedy of the maiden Jeanne who, after marrying the peasant Jean, is brutally deflowered by the local lord. Deep in despair, Jeanne is visited by the devil, who awakens her sexuality for her power and revenge. Needless to say, the emphasis on Jeanne’s body is ripe with controversy. At times displayed for the male gaze, ultimately, her sexuality becomes her weapon.

The feature’s aesthetics are a mix of art nouveau and 60’s psychedelia, painted in lush watercolors, oil, and line drawings; it shows numerous abstract designs that morph from naturalistic to symbolic forms. Many of these images are Continue reading