1 Hr., 45 Mins.
Funeral Parade of Roses / Touki-Bouki February 19, 2019
Djibril Diop Mambéty
1 Hr., 25 Mins.
But even that couldn’t compare to the level of publicity the film would receive almost a decade later. In a promotional photograph for their upcoming On the Run II Tour, multi-hyphenated power couple Jay-Z and Beyoncé recreated an indelible shot from the film last June. This gave film periodicals — and then, in turn, more-mainstream publications — a reason to talk about the little-discussed Touki-Bouki.
Touki-Bouki was Mambéty’s first feature-length project, and was shot, in Dakar and in Paris, on a budget of about $30,000. It stars Magaye and Mareme Niang as a pair of youths who scheme to swap out their unvarying lives in Senegal (he’s a cowherd, she’s a student) for glittery ones in Paris. With little money between them, they piece together a plot that will financially enable them to get there, which will have to involve theft.
These characters, self-involved and ruthless, might otherwise appear as amoral anti-heroes who barely skirt villainy. But Mambéty invests in them with empathy, and is understanding of their desires. Their determination to move away from their humdrum lives, even if rather fantastical and misguided in its resolve that Paris will make for the biggest of an improvement, is almost corporeal. Broadly, the movie is about the false belief that starting a new life will mean that your neuroses will become part of the past, too, but more specifically is it about the repercussions of hybridity and modernity, and the ways in which they can lead to disaffection and false promises down the line. Interspersed are French New Wave flourishes like jump cuts and out-of-place pop music. The movie has an at-once larkish, naturalist, and dreamy overhanging sensibility that makes it among the most distinct and weighty of tragicomedies.
Funeral Parade of Roses: B+
hen the Senegalese black comedy Touki-Bouki was first released in 1973, it was a commercial flop. Though acknowledged as an important film by cineastes — particularly ones familiar with the oeuvre of its influential writer and director, Djibril Diop Mambéty — it remained mostly disregarded until about 10 years ago, when Martin Scorsese headed a remastering as part of the World Cinema Project.
documentary, experimental, and horror filmmaking. Though often cited as a major inspiration for A Clockwork Orange, Stanley Kubrick’s transgressive psychological drama from 1971, it feels, as mentioned by the critic Simon Abrams, more in line with the early films of Jean-Luc Godard, like Breathless (1960) and Contempt (1963).
Funeral Parade of Roses stars the then-popular drag performer Peter as Eddie, a 20-something living in Tokyo. Over the course of the feature, Eddie both tries to piece together their relationship with a nightclub owner named Jimi (Yoshiji Jo), who’s in turn seeing someone else (Osamu Ogasawara), and sort out their nonconforming gender identity.
Scenes and sequences fluctuate in how they unfold and how they’re staged. Eddie’s present life is something of a comedic melodrama. It's sated with sexual interludes, delirious parties, and playful outings with friends. Matsumoto sporadically turns away from his primary character and conducts casual, talking-head interviews with real street subjects who either identify as gay or transgender. (Though the film and the people in it most frequently use “transvestite” and “cross-dresser” as identifiers.) Scrutinized is how their lives are either improved or encumbered by their identities. Then, in flashbacks, which are aesthetically grungy, we get a glimpse into Eddie's childhood, which is slaked with violence and suggested sexual abuse.
Matsumoto’s swirling storytelling style is inspiriting. You could see where his herky-jerk genre-melding and breakneck tonal shifts could alienate, or, if rendered with too much pretense, seem convoluted. But as Funeral Parade of Roses pinballs from drama to orgiastic farce to documentary to slasher-esque horror, coming across is not a lacking of focus but rather intense, infectious curiosity. It’s as if Matsumoto wanted to test the waters of these genres but figured it would be a more provocative and endurable stylistic choice to sample his interests in the confines of a single film instead of spreading them out via separate projects over several years. It’s genuinely electrifying to watch the film traverse, and I think much of that has to do with how its unpredictability complements the story. Indeed, living as a queer person in 1960s Japan comes with a great deal of emotional multiplicity. The tonal changes thus become amplifiers of this.
While the genre-shifting works, it is in Funeral Parade of Roses' portraiture, and really in its overarching objectives, that it’s less assured. Though Peter is in almost every scene, Matsumoto’s characterization is fragmented. He seems unsure of whether he wants to view his protagonist as a curiosity with a penchant for performance, an unstable aggressor, or, simply, a nonconforming person trying to find themselves. Is the movie, then, a character study, or is it a documentation of an underground counter-culture in which a character, in a way, becomes a jumping-off point? Matsumoto’s direction is reverent — it’s clear that he has great affection for his actors, and his portrayal of the gay and transgender community is, though sometimes splintered, forward-lookingly positive. The movie is sometimes slight, and perhaps poses more questions than it has the capacity to answer. But it is artistically thrilling and oftentimes emotionally affecting — a reminder that even the most tessellated and difficult-to-pinpoint features can make an impact if they’re made with enough heart and bravado.
uneral Parade of Roses (1969), the feature-length debut of the Japanese filmmaker Toshio Matsumoto, is elaborately constructed. It is a loose adaptation of Oedipus Rex, the classic Greek tragedy, though the players are part of the LGBTQIA+ subculture of 1960s Japan. It is technically a work of conventional drama, but, in touch with the anteceding French New Wave by which Matsumoto was influenced, there are elements of