Cast: Issay, Kan Takagi, Kiyohiko Ozaki, Kyoto Togawa, Shingo Kubota
Official Selection, 2018 Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival
North American Premiere of new digital master
In 1985, Japan’s National Space Development Agency selected the first group of Japanese astronauts to assist NASA missions in space. By zero coincidence of course, that same year, THE LEGEND OF THE STARDUST BROTHERS descended to earth from the brains of director Macoto Tezuka, then a 22-year-old film student, and musician and TV star Haruo Chicada, who had just made a legit awesome concept album about a fake band called the Stardust Brothers. Together, they would join brainwaves to produce a Phantom of the Paradise-inspired feature-length comedy set to the album. The result didn’t register Rocky Horror-level cultural tides. But that was 1985. Now it’s 2018 and it’s time to rediscover this demented gem.
In it, two rival bandleaders – the punk Kan and the new wave Shingo – are fused into a synth-pop duo by a shady record promoter with the stare of a Bond villain and the grease of a casino manager. The odd couple climb the charts alongside their fan club manager, a former groupie with star aspirations of her own. Together they soar into the stratosphere, dodging laser-beams and robots like they’re in a futuristic Hard Day’s Night, cozying up with white girls and snorting coke from kiddie pools like a Rolling Stone. But the higher the climb, the steeper the fall, especially as the film starts ripping the record industry for its soul-sucking exploitation, its conversion of joy into briefcases of cash, and its susceptibility to government interference.
Oh but the glory! Tezuka (son of Osamu Tezuka of Astro Boy fame) throws in the kitchen sink and the piping to go along with it, never refusing a chance for upside-down cinematography, quacky sound inserts, animation asides, or hallucinations that involve mutants and zombies. The practical effects and reflective costumes transport MTV hijinks onto a Japanese game show set, while the cast of then-superstar rockers exude traditional manzai comedy with prime intergalactic jokester warfare. Prefiguring the bozo funk of Katsuhito Ishii and Takashi Miike that would revolutionize Japanese pop cinema in the early 2000s, THE LEGEND OF THE STARDUST BROTHERS was decades ahead of its time but now finally ready for its close-up.