The Legend of The Stardust Brothers (1985) review.

Introduction

In 1985, the young Makoto Tezuka, son of manga godfather Osamu Tezuka, was approached by the famous musician and tv-personality Haruo Chicada with the question to make a movie for the soundtrack he had created for a non-existing movie. Makoto Tezuka, which by then had already directed various experimental narratives, accepted and directed what would become his feature-debut narrative.

Review

One day, Kan (Kan Takagi) and Shingo (Shingo Kubota), both singers of rival bands and both vying for fame and popularity, are given an invitation by a representative of the president of the talent agency Atomic Promotion, Minami (Kiyohiko Ozaki).

The following day, having arrived at the agency, they meet the innocent and charming Marimo (Kyoto Togawa), a girl who has, driven by her desire to force an audition with the president, been caught trespassing several times. Ultimately, in order to make Kan and Shingo agree to Minami’s proposal,she gives up her desire to become a singer, instead settling for a role as president of their fan-club. But as Kan and Shingo become stars, the will soon learn that fame always comes with nasty side effects.

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The Legend of the Stardust Brothers is not just another over-the-top narrative about fame and the side-effects that often go together with fame, e.g. jealousy and addiction. The Legend of the Stardust Brothers – and this is amazing – still manages, even though the narrative is envisioned as pure entertainment, to evoke (intended or unintended) a political message against uniformity (Narra-note 1).  This message, which might be more relevant today than at the time of this narrative’s release, is specifically important for Japan as such, as the concept of harmony still dictates much of the social fabric. One can formulate the ultimate message of the narrative as follows: In order to combat the political forces focused on disciplining society into uniformity and obedience, diversity and the freedom of expression – subjectivity as such – are our only weapons.

The Legend of Stardust Brothers – see the visuals framing Minami’s first song – also criticizes the system of agencies as well as the blind desire for fame that drives many young people.  Besides evoking the problematic power agencies have – a problem persisting up until this day – it also underlines the naivety of people who willingly give up their own agency, their own right to decide. Last but not least, The Legend of The Stardust Brothers questions the often problematic connection between mass media and politics, i.e. media as the mouthpiece of politics, entertainment as crowd-control and political influence.

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The Legend of The Stardust Brothers truly deserves the signifier ‘legend’. While the main narrative thread may very well be an approximation of “what truly happened” – as is implied by the very end – the framed and presented narrative is nothing other than the exaggerated and at some times rather absurd version of Shingo and Kan. This absurdity at the level of the narrative is supported by cinematographical absurdity and the energy to be found at the level of the acting performances.

The cinematographical ‘absurdity’ is especially sensible at the level of the effects. While the various cheap special-effects betray the limitations of the budget ‐ and may even cause some frowns – these effects have after 33 years also attained a certain charm. We would even say that the cheapness of various effects help emphasizing the craziness and absurdity of the narrative as such. But these so-called cheap effects should not detract the spectator from those effects that blend fluently into the narrative fabric, e.g. the colour divide in the opening song, the fun practical horror effects, the animation sequence, and the instances of stop-motion. As a matter of fact, it has to be applauded that Makoto Tezuka, in full knowledge of the limitations of his budget, realized, in a rather bold fashion, his cinematographical vision without much compromise.

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In Makoto’s framing, it is very easy to realize that, at various instances in the narrative, visual composition took preference over cinematographical continuity. In the catchy opening song, there are some compositional choices – choices deliberately braking the continuity – that have no other effect than heighten the fun. In other words, they function successfully as tongue-in-the-cheek visual puns.Furthermore, many of the visual effects – the effects we mentioned above – applied in the later narrative can be seen in the same way, as visual elements focused on fun.

There is a certain youthful energy that supports the entire narrative, an energy that emanates from Shingo Kubota and Kan Takagi and – as mentioned before – gets empowered by the bold way the narrative is framed as such. It is especially this energy, paired with those moments of charming comedic over-acting – over-acting often function of the amateurism of the concerned actors (see for instance Kiyohiko Ozaki’s performance) – that turn The Legend Of The Stardust Brothers into a 100 minutes long crazy roller-coaster of fun and musical entertainment.

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The music of The Legend Of The Stardust Brothers is utterly fantastic. Besides creating the fun eighties vibe that persists throughout the narrative, the infectious songs allow the spectator to enjoy a wide range of genres popular in the eighties. It is also evident that the music genres have also dictated the performances as such – ISSAY’s performance for instance brings the style of David Bowie wonderfully to live.

The Legend of the Stardust Brothers is one of those rare narratives that has become better by aging, instead of turning ugly and sour. While the ripeness of the narrative is not able to beautify all its faults, the pure fun oozing from the narrative and the performances secures the enjoyment the spectator can extract from this energetic and truly irresistible legend. In other words, the time for this narrative to become, thanks to the release of the DVD/Blu-ray by Third Windows Films, a cult-classic has finally arrived.

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Notes

Narra-note 1: This concerns the revelation of Kaoru’s father. For more information, one can read our exclusive report of our meeting with Makoto Tezuka.

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