Long unavailable in the U.S., director Toshio Matsumoto’s shattering, kaleidoscopic masterpiece is one of the most subversive and intoxicating films of the late ’60s. It’s a headlong dive into a dazzling, unseen Tokyo night-world of drag queen bars and fabulous divas, fueled by booze, drugs, fuzz guitars, performance art and black mascara. The flick drags into stores November 17.
An unknown club dancer at the time, transgender actor Peter gives an astonishing Edie Sedgwick/Warhol superstar-like performance as hot young thing Eddie, hostess at Bar Genet — where she’s ignited a violent love-triangle with reigning drag queen Leda (played by Osamu Ogasawara) for the attentions of club owner Gonda (Yoshio Tsuchiya).
One of Japan’s leading experimental filmmakers, Matsumoto bends and distorts time, freely mixing documentary interviews; Brechtian film-within-a-film asides; Oedipal premonitions of disaster; his own avant-garde shorts; even on-screen cartoon balloons, into a dizzying whirl of image and sound. Featuring breathtaking black-and-white cinematography by Tatsuo Suzuki that rivals the photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe, the film offers a frank, openly erotic and unapologetic portrait of an underground community of drag queens.
Who must we 感謝 for a key work of the Japanese New Wave and of queer cinema? Cinelicous Pics and The Cinefamily, who have beautifully restored the film in 4k from the original 35mm camera negative and sound elements.