film note: Funeral Parade of Roses

Great film, maybe a masterpiece, but I wonder how gay it really is.

This bold first feature from director Toshio Matsumoto strikes me as damn close to a masterpiece but I’m not sure it really belongs in my own personal gay canon. It appears frequently these days in queer/gay establishment-cinephile lists, however.

Mixing documentary and avant-garde forms in with its freewheelin’ Godardian narrative, the film identifies cross-dressing men-who-have-sex-with-men as gay — labeling them “queens”, to be exact, at least in the subtitles — but it’s not clear if this is an accurate portrayal of a dominant subculture in Japan or if it’s somehow code for evading cultural censors or equally plausible, perhaps the film’s depictions at least partially arise from what’s crudely called internalized homophobia. At other times, certain scenarios signal a clear fear of women and/or femininity.

Regardless, modern gay men in the West of just about any era or gender presentation are not going to recognize themselves fully in these characters. Women are even less likely to, as the female characters often devolve into one-dimensional bullies.

The drug/sex scenes, however, seem to offer a kind of respite or a refuge from all the problems and restrictions I listed above, reminding me of Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures.


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