les bijoux brilliants

Rome at Dawn/Les Bijoux Brilliants (Moon 2006)

I didn’t expect to be deeply moved by Rome at Dawn but I didn’t expect it to be such a bizarrely camp spectacle either! The theme song is a really upbeat “aishiteiru! aishiteiru!” when basically they all just murder each other. It’s like they’ve just given up and don’t even pretend to take it seriously themselves. Some things are obviously played for laughs, such as Tom’s Caesar rocking his son or throwing his toga to his groupies, or Asa’s Brutus joining in with Cleopatra’s dance and getting a murder stare from Caesar. Other things I’m not sure if we’re supposed to buy or not, such as the stabbed Caesar slowly, gradually and gracefully wrapping his toga around him, spinning around, slumping to the ground and arranging himself on top of the trap door. It’s somewhat amusing to read romance into the relationship between Brutus and Caesar. Oh, and I loved Yoshizuki Eri as Brutus’ vampy mother. She’s the eternal mad scientist of moon troupe, but with her round face and big eyes she looks so much better as a woman than in otokoyaku roles!

One of my problems is with the aesthetics. The set is quite dull, just a big staircase with pillars, though I liked it in one scene where they added some trees and a coloured sky showing between the pillars. I certainly don’t expect historical accuracy from zuka but the “Roman” costumes in this are just too ridiculous. They all wear shirts and trousers and high white boots with a “toga” on top, a necklace and some other jewellery and sometimes golden laurels or other types of headbands. They’re also all monochrome and dressed in matching pastels which is just too uniform for my taste. In the final scene when they are militaries they’ve changed from pastels into duo-toned capes with coloured tights and look like typical jesters. They also march around doing Monthy Python silly walks levels of high leg lifts and little skips and twists. The cliché “Egyptian” costumes are kind of neat though, as is Caesar’s ghost’s over-the-top suit of arms with pimped boots to top Asa’s pimped boots.

The otokoyaku are all in modern messy otokoyaku hair that I don’t approve of. Except on Yuuhi, Yuuhi looks really great in her wispy blond Jrock/anime mullet, better than I’ve ever seen her look in zuka regency – I guess some length and bangs hanging down in her face really suit her! But I don’t like Asa’s synthetic-looking black (or does it have a touch of steel grey?) wig in a high messy pile on top of her head. And Kiriyan has pinned her hair back into some kind of curl halo that’s so weird I reckon it must be inspired by genuine Roman hairdos, though it looks more like a temporary solution while styling.

The revue, Les Bijoux Brilliants, makes it all worthwhile though! It starts with Asa being wired down on a moon in a red velvet coat that looks just a little too much like a Santa costume. Then there’s one of these “modern” dance numbers in “modern” cut-up clothes where Asa in her best sleazy smoulder mode looks for a koibito and tries on different girls. Followed by the Tom version where shabby chic Tom walks into a tango bar, sits drinking all depressed, is enticed to dance, discovers The Girl, has a somewhat homoerotic fistfight with Yuuhi over said girl and – lo and behold! - it does not end with someone getting randomly shot or stabbed. Instead Tom just drowns her sorrows in wine and bawls them out in song. I’m really glad Tom got a lot to do in this scene so she could show her (acting, singing and dancing) talents, instead of just strolling around looking casually magnificent in a golden coat or something as senka era Tom so often gets to do.

Other highlights include Kiriyan singing La vie en rose in a pink coat surrounded by background dancers with pink feather fans. And Asa crooning Feeling Good on the grand stairs in a deep blue velvet tailcoat with her hair slicked back in the way that suits her best, surrounded by otokoyaku in black tailcoats. I really do think she has a contract clause about always getting a kuroenbi! Though it’s not a proper stair dance in this case.

The whole revue felt short and it turned out to be because four(!) scenes had the sound removed and were hidden away in the scene menu. Why do they do that?! I don’t mean removing the music (though that too), I mean why not just leave the scenes where they belong and keep the continuity of the revue? Sadly most of Tom’s singing fell victim to copyright this time.