What happens to voices silenced in the past? Perhaps they hover near us as spirits, waiting to be heard. Such is the premise of Masaaki Yuasa’s new film, a splendid rock opera the likes of which has not been seen since the 1970s. Inu-oh shares the energy, experimentation and critique of those films – it also shimmies with luminous colors and wriggles with transformative movement. Layering past and present with freeform aesthetic imagination, the film questions narratives of power, authority, and tradition to the rhythms of transgressive rock and roll.
Inu-oh is set in 14th century Japan when the famous Tale of the Heike was being written down from oral traditions. Two wounded boys – cursed Inu-oh (voiced by marvelous musician Avu-chan) and blinded Tomona – meet while they are learning the craft of sarugaku music (an early form of Noh theater). They soon develop their own revolutionary (glam rocker) style and become famous for telling new stories about the lost souls of the defeated Heike clan. So popular are their riveting performances that a power-hungry Shogun soon plots to destroy them.
Complex and ambitious, Inu-oh continues Yuasa’s ongoing exploration of the subversive potential of unusual perspectives. Balanced between heartache and glory, it pounds out crowd-pleasing, head-banging paeons to love, pain, and freedom in the never-ending fight against tyranny. (Jennifer Barker)