The musical phenomenon brought to life…
Though their name may be unfamiliar to all but the most devoted American metal fans, the band X Japan are superstars everywhere else in the world. As their name may suggest, the band originally hails from Japan. They achieved their initial fame and success by establishing themselves as musical gods in Japan before they quickly spread to an audience that spans the globe from Mexico to Germany and everywhere in between.
Director Stephen Kijak, who has previously made documentaries about the Backstreet Boys and The Rolling Stones, created We Are X to tell the story of X Japan as they prepared for their huge show at Madison Square Garden, the moment when they would finally break into the mainstream American rock market. In parallel to this story, Kijak lays out the history of the band through interviews with members, record executives, producers, close friends, and a treasure trove of archival clips and photographs.
As the audience learns more about the band’s genesis and evolution, they begin to understand all the tensions at stake in the success of the Garden show. From it’s very beginnings, the two central members of the band were front-man Yoshiki, who played the drums and keyboards, wrote, and composed, and singer Toshi. Later on, the audience is also introduced to a bassist Taiji, who left the band for mysterious reasons, the rhythm guitarist Pata, and lead guitarist Hide. Yoshiki is the clear star of the film. As the band’s sole founding member to keep it alive all through its history, Yoshiki was always the face of X Japan and his feminine glam-rock style is iconic to this day.
As he tells the story of his band, Yoshiki also tells the story of his life and reveals the pain of losing his father to suicide at a young age. He goes into details about the challenges he’s faced in his life and the difficulties that he and X Japan have had to overcome. Meanwhile, the storyline of the band’s preparation for the Garden is frequently intercut, making the audience more and more invested in the band conquering America.
The film, though ultimately inspirational, is still fairly dark. Taiji and Hide both also commit suicide during the story of the band and Yoshiki faces serious health problems that make every concert a battle. However, the elements that stands out more than any of that are clips of fans from all over the world celebrating the band and telling the camera about how X Japan’s music has saved them and carried them through difficult times in their lives.
We Are X is the kind of film that tells a compelling story to anyone regardless of personal interests or musical preferences. The extreme speed and intensity of the music makes it impossible to look away from and the audience is well rewarded by the engrossing story. This film shouldn’t be missed by any music fan, and metal fans would definitely be making a mistake to skip it.
We Are X is directed by Stephen Kijak and will open in limited theaters on October 21.
Photo credits: Variety.