Funeral Parade of Roses (1969)

Food:

For today’s meal, I made: Brown Butter Rigatoni with Asparagus, Walnuts & Lemony Ricotta.

First, wash and dry all produce. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Quarter lemon. Cut asparagus into 1-inch pieces & toss the bottom ends. Peel & mince garlic. Trim & thinly slice scallions – separate whites & greens. Cut up 3 TBSP of butter. Next, add rigatoni pasta to the pot, and cook until al dente. When straining, reserve 1 cup of pasta water.

In small separate bowl, combine ricotta cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice & a pinch of salt & pepper.
In a dry pan, heat walnuts over medium high heat until golden. Empty into a plate, then drizzle olive oil in same pan, and add asparagus slices with salt and pepper. Cook until brown. Empty pan.

In same pan, add cubes of butter. Once butter is melted and foamy, turn off heat. Add garlic, scallion whites, juice from lemon, and chili flakes – to taste. Cook for about 60 seconds. Turn heat back on. Add rigatoni, 1 unit of veggie stock concentrate, and asparagus to pan. Season with salt & pepper, then add Parmesan and half of the reserved pasta water. Stir and continue adding pasta water to avoid the cheese clumping – stir until smooth.

When finished, pour pasta into bowl, and dollop with lemony ricotta mixture, scallion greens, almonds, Parmesan, and chili flakes (if you want a little extra spice!). Drizzle with olive oil & serve! Enjoy.

Recipe from HelloFresh.

LGTBQ Film Series #4:

“Funeral Parade of Roses” (薔薇の葬列; 1969) is a fascinating, experimental Japanese New Wave piece directed by Toshio Matsumoto, with cinematography by Tatsuo Suzuki and stand-out performances by Pîtâ as Eddie and Osamu Ogasawara as Leda.

Before embarking on this unique experience of a film, it is important to get some context. First, Japanese New Wave – similar to French New Wave – was an emerging genre of filmmaking that took place in the 1960’s which included elements of arthouse (defined as: “intended to be a serious, artistic work, often experimental and not designed for mass appeal”), documentary and otherwise experimental cinema. This film is characterized by fragmented shots, a clashing score, scrambled plot-lines and inexplicable pop-up clips. This era was seeing massive global unrest in all parts of the world (the aftermath of World War II, the American Civil Rights Movement, the “British Invasion” and the evolution of Rock N Roll and rebellious Youth Culture, confrontations between the United States and the Soviet Union following the assassination of John F. Kennedy). In Western Europe and Japan, organizations were coming out in troves to comment on capitalism and their governments ability to help the marginalized people, such as Situationist International, an international organization of social revolutionaries made up of avant-garde artists, intellectuals, and political theorists, which was prevalent from 1957 to 1972. This film, like other New Wave films, attempts to comment on or acknowledge the taboo subject matter where other filmmakers were afraid to go. “The Funeral Parade of Roses” looks at sexual violence, radicalism, LGTBQ youth (specifically Drag and Trans culture), and the revolutionary groups taking to the streets to protest. However, the difference between French New Wave and Japanese New Wave is that while in France, it was an anti-production studio, independent approach to filmmaking, and in Japan, it was actually the film studio’s strategy to invigorate local cinema with new ideas, to halt it from being undermined by television production companies. (Japan has a history of using government programs to attempt to reshape cultural norms for their own benefit, such as more recently, investing in dating programs to combat the large part of the population choosing singledom.)

This film was made to be a loose adaptation of Oedipus Rex – also known by its Greek title, Oedipus Tyrannus or Oedipus the King, is an Athenian tragedy by Sophocles. The story goes that Oedipus is born in Thebes, as the sole son of a Thebian royal family, and is foretold his tragic fate upon his birth, which is that he will kill his father and marry his mother. In attempt to beat fate, his father orders that Oedipus is killed and left in the forest, but he miraculously survives and is adopted by another family in Corinth. Remembering the oracle, he thinks that his adoptive parents are his true parents, and to avoid the foretold future he was given, he leaves his adoptive parents (not realizing that they are, indeed, not his biological parents). Classic. He then, ends up conquering a city, kills the king, takes the queen as his bride, and they have four children. However, they eventually discover that Oedipus is the son of the Queen, and that his destiny was carried out inevitably. The Queen hangs herself, and in agony, Oedipus gouges his eyes out and sends himself to exile. According to the book “Mythology” by Edith Hamilton, “To attempt to act in such a way that the prophecy would be made void was as futile as to set oneself against the decrees of fate.” At the end of the story, when his unavoidable fate was determined, “[Oedipus] put out his eyes. The black world of blindness was a refuge; better to be there than to see with strange shamed eyes the old world that had been so bright.”

Now, the setting has been revamped to 1960’s Tokyo, and replace Oedipus to a charming and coy trans woman named Eddie (the gorgeous newcomer Pîtâ) and Thebes becomes popular nightclub Bar Genet. In short, Eddie’s journey is defined by her inability to properly characterize herself. No matter what she does, she is confronted by her limitations and the film seems to understand that no matter how free one feels, they are ultimately trapped by other people’s preconceived notions about them – a trans persons most debilitating reality. Similar to Oedipus Rex, Eddie’s awareness of the societal problem and does not easily provide a solution to her way of life.

Eddie is having an affair with Jimi (Yoshiji Jo), while Jimi is already in a relationship with Leda (Osamu Ogasawara). While this film was Pîtâ’s on-screen debut, Ogasawara was already well-known in Japan and across international audiences for his work in many Akira Kurosawa films, such as “The Seven Samurai” (1954), making his appearance in this kind of underground film fairly notable. Leda is destructively insecure and jealous, elevating the stakes for Eddie and Jimi’s behavior, while Jimi is obsessed with club owner Gondo (Yoshio Tsuchiya), and Gondo is secretly seeing Leda. However, much of the film is focused on Eddie’s internal struggle to understand her place in Japanese mainstream society and its underground scene – both of which seems to both fetishize and alienate members of the gay and transgender community. As she moves through her sexual escapades and nights out at the bar, jarring flashbacks to Eddie’s past interrupt her experiences, which allude to childhood molestation and a gruesome murder. The film begins with the quote, ““I’m a wound and a sword, a victim and an executioner” and uses its run-time to see Eddie in all these various roles in her own life.

Though, Eddie’s story line is like a string woven throughout every aspect of the film, “Funeral Parade of Roses” is so multi-faceted that it manages to comment on several other stereotypes and complications existing within 1960’s counter-culture. Matsumoto pokes fun at the “Pretentious Intellectual” in the form of a hairy stoner, Guevara (Toyosaburo Uchiyama), who quotes his favorite artists at parties in an attempt to showcase depth. He fleshes out the way many members of the queer community struggle between their true selves and their performative identities. He incorporates on-the-street confessional style documentary footage from interviews with Tokyo’s LGTBQ community – and these are interspersed miscellaneously throughout the film.

In Western culture, the most well-known legacy of “Funeral Parade of Roses” is that Stanley Kubrick has acknowledged it as one of his favorite films, and the highly stylized, dark comedy, distorted visuals and non-linear timeline served as the main inspiration of Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” which was released two years later. As opposed to creating a cohesive film that matches in tone, motifs, style, and score, Matsumoto chooses to rework the effects to create a specific mood for each scene. He combines freeze frames, cartoon-like punctuation, shock cuts, strobe-lights, title cards, rapid time lapse transitions, balloon captions, and a recurring, grim image of a cigarette burn protruding through a man’s face in a family portrait.

The film is exceptionally cheeky as well with some self-referential Easter eggs. To solidify the Oedipus Rex theme, there is a prominent scene that takes place in an alley where the characters stand in front of five Japanese posters for Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Oedipus Rex” film (1967). Also, the title of the film is a pun, as “Rose”/”Bara” in Japanese is used similarly to the word “pansy” in English slang. This play on words reflects both the beauty and elegance of a rose, while simultaneously using the derogatory nature of the term “pansy” “wussy” “pussy” or “wimp” – a term certainly used to degrade trans women throughout history.

“Funeral Parade of Roses” is best appreciated with a coherent understanding of its parts, as discussed above, to give viewers a more thoroughly baked cake. However, with its glitzy rock n roll atmosphere, thoughtfully composed visuals, liberating subject matter, and glamorous costuming, it will still entertain and invigorate a blind audience. A louder, more graphic Jean Luc-Godard, a timeless love letter to drag, and an exhilarating ride through the ups and downs of trans identity, this film may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it should undoubtedly be embraced as a significant and masterful contribution to cinema.

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