The Legend of the Stardust Bros.
If you feel infinite sadness that you will never see Earth Girls are Easy for the first time again, do not despair: there are other masterpieces out there. The Legend of the Stardust Bros. is one of them.
Macoto Tezuka’s largely unknown 1985 musical, now out on Blu-Ray, follows two Japanese singers, Kan and Shingo, on their meteoric journey through teen stardom. On their way they come up against sinister producer Minami, groupie-playing-the-long-game Marimo, perfectly cheekboned rival Kaworu, leather-clad security guards, secret government intrigue and – Ultimate Evil? But let’s not give anything away: the plot offers numerous spectacular and excessive comic reveals, remaining constantly surprising to the end, including probably the best use of a dextrocardia plot device I have ever seen.
Shingo (Shingo Kubota) and Kan (Kazuhiro Takagi) develop exceptional chemistry playing the two leads, who start as rivals but are forced into a synthpop duo by their promoters. Kan is a beautiful, aloof, androgynous punk in blue lipstick, Shingo coarse and clownish but with a sudden intense sexiness: the point you realise this is going to be a great movie is when, after comically abusing his band and tripping about the dressing room, Shingo takes to the stage and seemingly out of the blue sings an incredibly intense song about coming from the wrong side of the tracks, while very seriously tearing the white cashmere jumper he is wearing to shreds.
Other brilliant turns are given by Kyoko Togawa as Marimo, the Bros’ tone-deaf fan-club president who goes on to steal their show, and Kiyohiko Ozaki, whose numbers come studded with lights, confetti and backing dancers. ISSAY, as the “clean” star Kaworu, also gives a wonderfully creepy performance singing the government ideology of peace and love while drinking himself into bouts of DTs off-stage.
The music is excellent, the lyrics beautiful and mad. “I reach for a glass of milk, looks like tomato juice.” Rocky Horror seems to have been an influence, but the comparison with Julien Temple’s Earth Girls, which Stardust Bros. predates by 3 years, is perhaps more apt. Both are loud hyperactive MTV-style satires based on previously existing albums; both treat their subjects with love verging on admiration. And there are a few similar thought-processes in there too: compare Jim Carrey’s “We are filthy Martians, we are MTV scum!” with the chorus of the Stardust Bros’ opening song, translated as “Stardust Stardust Stardust scum of stars!”
Like EGAE, the sets are put together with infinite attention to detail, and that goes a long way to making this film look, as well as sound, like a million dollars. Everything glitters. Pistol shots are accompanied by fireworks. There are some great prosthetics and charming animations. In other words, here is a film that manages to control a vast amount of disparate material with massive confidence – every joke lands. And while it’s not all light entertainment – a cool strain of subversion runs throughout, and it also hits occasional and devastating peaks of beauty – it is rare to find a film offering such undiluted pleasure.
Despite its great music, star power and lustrous brilliance, Stardust sank almost without trace in 1985. Now, however, it is back in a newly remastered version. Hopefully it will be available on DVD soon – but if it does hit a festival near you, don’t miss it.
all the stars.