There are films that are like a well-kept secret. You’ve never heard of them before but then you stumble upon them in a festival programme and you can’t get them out of your head. The title sounds right, the director has a solid reputation and the few bits of plot you allowed yourself to read are just up your alley. THE LEGEND OF THE STARDUST BROTHERS ticks all the boxes.
The story goes that in 1985 film-student Tezuka Makoto (son of the iconic manga maestro Tezuka Osamu) met Chikada Haruo, a well-established musician who made a soundtrack to a movie which didn’t really exist. Yet. That film, choreographed around the soundtrack, soon became Tezuka’s first feature and rapidly achieved the status of a cult movie although still being largely unknown to audiences both in Japan and worldwide.
Visually, THE LEGEND OF THE STARDUST BROTHERS is pure joy. From the curious black & white intro sequence where everything turns into vibrant colours as soon as we are introduced to Shingo (Kubota Shingo) and Kan (Takagi Kan) – the two singers of the Stardust Brothers duo, wrapped in a futuristic silver jumpsuit – to a hallucinatory animated clip of Shingo turning into an anime character to dive into a monster’s bowels, there’s no reason to believe you won’t get a bit of aesthetic pleasure. To keep pace with the highly rhythmic story, the camera also moves with brisk energy leaving you hungry for the next trick.
Following the supersonic rise to fame of former penniless singers Shingo and Kan, forcibly urged to form a duo by Atomic Production boss Minami (Ozaki Kiyohiko), the film unfolds as a wild ride into Japanese celebrity culture showing its most natural dynamics and rivalries. In spite of a most humorous script, both main and secondary characters show substance and wink at basic archetypal figures – for example, Kaworu (brilliantly played out by ISSAY) embodies the angel-faced villain with Bowie-esque mannerisms, whose overacting tantrums often steal the scene. Togawa Kyoko, on the other side, though scripted for a somewhat marginal role (which nonetheless subtly points at a male-dominated music industry), shines brightly and fascinates with her charm every time she’s on screen.
Overlooked for too many years, THE LEGEND OF THE STARDUST BROTHERS is apparently set to be soon released by Third Window Films in a shiny, new Director’s Cut version. I cannot salute enough such news – the pure enjoyment, and the heartfelt laughs, I had the pleasure to share with the audience at the Glasgow Film Festival definitely need to reach further horizons.