The Legend of the Stardust Brothers

Director: Macoto Tezuka

Writer: Macoto Tezuka

Cast: Kan Takagi, Shingo Kubota, Kyôko Togawa, Kiyohiko Ozaki, ISSAY

Cert: 15

Producers: Katsunori Haruta, Takashige Ichise, Katsuichi Takagi

Music: Haruo Chicada (musical director)

Cinematography: Eiichi Ôsawa

Editors: Mara Kishi, Macoto Tezuka

Running time: 101mins

Year: 1985

What’s the story: Through the magic of song and music videos, a Japanese pop duo recount their rise and fall.

What’s the verdict: You can always rely on Third Window to deliver the most cult of cult items from Asia. The Legend of the Stardust Brothers disappeared virtually unnoticed upon its 1985 release in Japan, and never saw distribution outside the country.

A shame it languished so long in obscurity because this oddity is a cinematic ancestor to Miike Takashi’s The Happiness of the Katakuris and Sion Sono’s Tokyo Tribe and Love and Peace.

Macoto Tezuka (son of legendary Astro Boy creator Osamu Tezuka) was a 22-year-old student when he decided to make a film based on pop-star Haruo Chicada’s The Legend of the Stardust Brothers, a soundtrack album recorded for a film that never was.

Essentially a collection of music videos loosely strung together to tell the rise-and-fall tale of a plastic pop duo, Tezuka’s movie brims with lo-fi energy and bizarro story shifts. Riffing off The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Phantom of the Paradise it is wild, scattershot and prone to flagging when the music stops.

Luckily, the musical numbers come thick and fast, never drop below charming and often dazzle with madcap brio and 80s Lightbox video effects.  

Leads Kan Takagi and Shingo Kubota pitch their performances at 11 throughout, tempered by Kyôko Togawa’s sweet turn as president of their fan club, a position she has because industry sexism doesn’t value her ambitions of stardom.

Villainy arrives courtesy of famed musician Kiyohiko Ozaki’s shadowy kingmaker Atomic Minami, plus Japanese rock star ISSAY’s New Romantic, possibly cyborg Niji, a rival not above murder to keep a competitive edge. The eagle-eyed may spot future Tokyo Sonata director Kiyoshi Kurosawa in a cameo role (we didn’t).

Presented in its original 4:3, grainy 80s glory, Tezuka has revisited the film for this “director’s cut”, but seemingly without defanging it of its lunacy.

Rob Daniel
Twitter: rob_a_Daniel
iTunes Podcast: The Electric Shadows Podcast

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