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Review

Experimental 1969 Japanese film 'Funeral Parade of Roses' provokes and entrances

For best enjoyment — or at least basic comprehension — of the 4K restoration of writer-director Toshio Matsumoto’s outré 1969 melodrama “Funeral Parade of Roses,” the film must be viewed through the prism of that era’s experimental wave of cinema. Compare this kicky, black-and-white piece to anything even remotely contemporary or mainstream and you might be lost — or glued to your watch.

The film’s plot, such as it is, pits Eddie (Japanese entertainer Peter, then a teenager), a young Tokyo trans woman (or “gay boy” or “rose”), against an older, drag club madam (Osamu Ogasawara) for the love of the bar’s drug-dealing owner (Yoshio Tsuchiya). It all somehow morphs into an “Oedipus Rex” takeoff that ends in unbearable violence.

But there’s so much more here — and sometimes far less — as Matsumoto mashes a barrage of audio-visual styles, tones and gimmicks into a brash kaleidoscope of filmic possibility. For much of the movie, its grab bag of showy scenes and vivid pop images could likely be shuffled to little narrative impact.

A reported influence on Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange,” the movie echoes the work of such filmmakers as Andy Warhol, Jean-Luc Godard, Luis Buñuel and avant-garde pioneer Jonas Mekas, who is name-checked here. Ultimately, “Roses’” anarchic canvas of sex, drugs and desperate living succeeds in provoking and entrancing, if not exactly entertaining.

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‘Funeral Parade of Roses’

In Japanese with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Playing: The Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre, Los Angeles

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