Third Window Films: The Legend of the Stardust Brothers (1985) - Reviewed

While Osamu Tezuka, AKA The God of Manga, is an iconic artist in the world of manga and animation, his eldest son Macoto Tezka has both followed in his footsteps and also gone his own way as far as creativity goes. Instead of immersing himself in manga, he was more of a film buff, and directed his first 8mm film as a young teen. The film, Fantastic Party, earned him accolades from people prestigious as Nagisa Oshima. He continued to make more 8mm films and made a name for himself. The Legend of the Stardust Brothers (1985) was his first full length feature film that he directed at the young age of 23. Unfortunately, the film flopped at release, but it has become appreciated much more as a cult film now.

The real life premise behind the film is that a musician named Haruo Chikada created a concept soundtrack for a film that didn't actually exist. Tezka decided to run with this idea and wrote a script that would connect all of these songs together into a cohesive narrative. While the end product is the exact opposite of cohesive, it has an infectious wackiness that keeps the pace going at breakneck speed, not to mention an eclectic catchy '80s New Wave soundtrack that will have audience members tapping their toes. One minute the protagonists are dancing on a giant piano and the next minute they are running from zombies. It's weird, but it works.

The Legend of the Stardust Brothers follows two musicians, Shingo and Kan who have a penchant for performing in gleaming silver spacesuits. The film begins in black-and-white with the duo jumping out in full color--an indication that this isn't going to be the same old thing. The plucky singers get a record contract from a sleazy producer named Svengali and as most of these musical adventures tend to go, once you hit the top there is nowhere to go but down. The Stardust Brothers' meteoric rise to the heights of the pop charts makes up the bulk of the film, and it feels like loosely connected music videos. Even though the film had a small budget, Tezka manages to infuse the set-pieces and aesthetic with lots of color and interesting designs and he even throws in some stop-motion animation!

It's quite obvious that the two leads are not professional actors but everyone is having so much damn fun that it doesn't matter. Keep a lookout for cameos from director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Cure, Pulse) and manga artist Monkey Punch (Lupin III). The various dance numbers are lively and well choreographed and there is not a single dull moment to be had. 

Third Window Films' release is fantastic and the limited edition includes a slipcover and a CD of the soundtrack. The film was shot in 16mm and the remastered transfer looks great--especially considering the original film negative was lost. The colors really pop!

--Michelle Kisner

-Dual Format DVD/Bluray
-ALL REGION (plays in all players)
-Making of from the film’s original release
-New interview with director
-Soundtrack CD