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.
‘Funeral Parade of Roses’
In Japanese with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Playing: The Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre, Los Angeles