The Legend of the Stardust Brothers Movie Review
Written by Gareth Beverstock
Released by Third Window Films
Written and directed by Macoto Tezuka
1985, 100 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
Frightfest English Premiere on 25th August 2019
Shingo Kubota as Shingo
Kan Takagi as Kan
Kyôko Togawa as Marimo
Issay as Kaworu Niji
Kiyohiko Ozaki as Atomic Minami
Hoshikuzu kyôdai no densetsu (The Legend of the Stardust Brothers) is a strange beast of film, made in 1985 by Makoto Tazuka, better known for his later involvement with an Anime series BlackJack. The film chronicles the spectacular rise and catastrophic fall of the Japanese pop group The Stardust Brothers. Shingo and Kan are picked out of obscurity by a mysterious record-producer, Atomic Minami. With his help and that of Marimo, the young lady they saved from the Skinhead punk security staff, they shoot to stardom off their first record. But like all tales of fame, they’re pulled a part by ego, vanity and vice. Then throw in a touch of shadowy conspiracy, and an evil cyborg Bowie-esque popstar all wrapped up in strange stylistic sci-fi synth pop-punk musical comedy.
The Legend of the Star Brothers, on the surface resembles films like Help! (1965) and Head (1968), a madcap romp with musical interludes that, this time, follows an odd couple through the highs and lows of stardom. But there is more to it than that; it mocks the music industry, the audience for being suckered into all the hype and marketing; the concept of fame and ultimately, itself. There are similarities to the history of music too. Songs and fashions change with startling speed, Punk to Pop with touches of Rockabilly and Ska for good measure.
There are moments that are really enjoyable, some touching performances from Kyoko Togawa as the bubbly girl with dreams of being a singer, and Kan is charismatic as the ex-punk turned pop star.
But this is by no means a good film. Songs vary in quality, some being quite funny and subversive, while others make absolutely no sense whatsoever. Shingo is so over the top; while yes, he’s the selfish egotist, it’s just played to an annoying extreme. The same can be said for the Skinhead security, stomping round with cartoonish menace, metal bat over one shoulder. A joke the first time, but every time after becoming increasingly frustrating. Atomic Minami, played by Kiyohiko Ozaki (one of two actual popstars that appear in this film) is a rigid board throughout. No expression until his musical numbers and even then, emotion is only imparted by his singing, while everything else remains subdued. The film also can’t shake the sense that it’s a collection of music videos, bridged with interconnecting skits.
This is an over the top, ridiculously silly assault on the senses. At times you want to stop and ask yourself, “WTF am I watching here?” Other times are painful, literally agonizing. It feels disjointed, but even that has an endearing quality to it, like watching some of the more experimental Japanese films from that era. This sort of film might not translate particularly well, which might explain why it’s taken almost 34 years to come to these shores. I hope it’s not another 34 years before the sequel graces our screens. And just so you know, I’m not asking for a sequel, there already is one, Hoshikuzu Kyodai no aratana Densetsu made in 2016, featuring some of the original cast along with some more recognizable talent.
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