I hope this doesn't sound racist, but Japanese people are fucking insane—and goddamn I love them for it. Japanese clothes put American designers to shame. Japanese music is otherworldly. And, above all, Japanese film—at least the film I've seen—is like porn for surrealists. Yaji and Kita: The Midnight Pilgrims is a gay love story that's a cross between Dead Man and the Odyssey—if they were mashed up together, made to mirror the themes and imagery in Alice in Wonderland and scored by primo-era New York Dolls. (None of this late career revival shit.)
Based on an old samurai story about two warriors who escape their nagging wives and take to the road, here we're given a candy-colored Easy Rider trip with drag queens, giant magic mushrooms, and a strange journey up the river Styx. Yaji and Kita are two gay guys living in the Edo period (1603-1867) who take off into the countryside to seek a cure for Kita's heroin addiction. As Kita says early on, "I can't make head or tails of reality," and so goes the film, as the characters jump through time, perform musical numbers, and run into a vast and freaky assortment of temptations and pitfalls. Everything's a test. Every turn presents a new hoop to jump through and each falls further into WackyLand, which is always a slippery slope. Still, WackyLand Japan is a lot more fun than WackyLand America, where it's all "Get it?!" eyebrow wagging and lowest common denominator gags. Here director Kankuro Kudô pushes his characters into some of the most absurd and wildly creative situations I've seen set to film. Please forward my mail to Tokyo. I'm ready for WackyLand.