phone mail2 facebook twitter play
REVIEW: We Are X

REVIEW: We Are X

23 October 2016 Stephanie Brandhuber

If you haven’t the foggiest who X Japan is, don’t fret – neither did I, until I watched this super sleek, gorgeously glossy rockumentary about the biggest, most successfully band you’ve probably never heard of.

Stephen Kijak's film We Are X tells the story of X Japan, a phenomenally successful Japanese rock band that has not only sold over 30 million singles and albums, but which is also loved by globally influential musical artists including KISS, Stan Lee, and Marilyn Manson to name just a few.
 
Founded in 1982 by composer, pianist and drummer extraordinaire Yoshiki, X Japan has been wowing fans with their brand of theatrical glam metal for over three decades. Instigating similar reactions from fans as the Beatles did back in their prime, X Japan revolutionized rock music not only in Japan, but the world over. And yet, in the Western world, they have barely touched recognition. We Are X finally sheds a light on this wildly influential group, following X Japan as they prepare to finally cross the international music scene by performing to a massive audience in New York City's Madison Square Garden.
 
At first look, We Are X might appear to be a bog-standard music doc with its introductory concert footage and archival photo montages. However, as the story of X Japan unfolds, more screen time is granted to Yoshiki, the band's frontman, who proves to be a mesmerizing and deeply interesting cinematic subject.
 
Yoshiki is introduced to us as an enigmatic character whose existence is inextricably linked to the band. We are given the impression that without the band, Yoshiki would cease to live. Indeed, his frailty and poor health are presented to us in a way that makes us see his success and his musical talents as almost miraculous, giving Yoshiki an almost alien and spiritual dimension. We learn of his father's suicide when he was just a young boy and how he turned his subsequent youthful anger into a passionate work ethic, choosing to channel his strife and energy into drumming instead of destruction. And certainly, watching the footage of Yoshiki drumming is other-worldly, the speed and the precision of his abilities making his talents undeniably the best in the world. The frantic energy of his drumming seems to emanate from his body and soul, and it's no wonder that he often passes out at the end of a concert, his body unable to take the physical exertion to which he's submitted himself.

Through interviews with X Japan's various band members, we learn of the tumultuous journey the band has lived through, from a permanent rift with bassist Taiji, to the lead singer Toshi's "brainwashing" by a cult. These and the various other crises that are unveiled are treated with solemnity and import but yet with very little real insight. The band's initial dissolution in 1997 is brushed over with surprisingly little detail, and when questioned further about what exactly happened with bassist Taiji, Yoshiki is reluctant to discuss it further.
 
Having been made by the same production team as Oscar winning music documentary Searching for Sugarman (2012), I would have expected a similar quality of in-depth investigative documenting in this rockumentary. Although a fascinating look at one of the world's most overlooked bands, We Are X remains somewhat epidermal in substance. It's a shame that the creative talents that make up this band aren't looked at with more insight, as they are all clearly captivating characters. However, their unwillingness to divulge the more juicy details of their own history makes for an entertaining albeit not completely satisfying watch. Their mantra is We Are X, but sadly I'm still left wondering who is X?
 
3.5/5 stars
 

Tell us what you think

You may also like

An interview with John Boyega

An interview with John Boyega

Via a galaxy far, far away, film star John Boyega is back within three miles of where it all began: Peckham’s hottest property is taking the…

A Guide to Unusual Film Screenings

A Guide to Unusual Film Screenings

Escaping the confines of the average cinema – not that we here at London Calling don’t love our local ‘plex – and experiencing a film in a…

‘An actor is always reinventing himself through his characters’ - An Interview with Damian Lewis

‘An actor is always reinventing himself through his characters’ - An Interview with Damian Lewis

Having ventured from the hallowed halls of England’s most historic school to the very top of transatlantic television, Damian Lewis is returning to the city –…

Most popular

The Londoners: Portrait of a Working City 1447 - 1980

The Londoners: Portrait of a Working City 1447 - 1980

See the forgotten faces and identities of London's past.
Museums at Night at The Bank of England Museum

Museums at Night at The Bank of England Museum

Enjoy talks, demos and explore this fantastic museum by dark.
The Engine Room: International Sound Art Exhibition

The Engine Room: International Sound Art Exhibition

Celebrating the most exciting sound art being produced right now.
Top 5: Rooftop Bars in London

Top 5: Rooftop Bars in London

From cosy chilled-out spaces to high-end glitzy restaurants overlooking the city’s skyscrapers, we pick out some of the best rooftop bars you should be spending your summer evenings at.
Top 5: Gelato and Ice Cream Parlours in London

Top 5: Gelato and Ice Cream Parlours in London

We may be tempting fate, but we've rounded up freshest frozen treats London has to offer in time for the Spring sunshine
Last Chance to See: The Hunterian Museum

Last Chance to See: The Hunterian Museum

Human toes and maggots buried in reindeer skin? We explore one of the weirdest museums in London before it closes for three years…
House of Burlesque: 2.0

House of Burlesque: 2.0

House of Burlesque push aside the pretence of fluff & feathers in their strong, sassy and thoroughly modern show.
Celebrate Drawing with the RWA’s ‘Drawn’ and ‘Lines in a Landscape’ Exhibitions

Celebrate Drawing with the RWA’s ‘Drawn’ and ‘Lines in a Landscape’ Exhibitions

Don't miss these three unique exhibitions with over 200 artworks celebrating the art of drawing at RWA Bristol.
The Secret Garden - London Children’s Ballet

The Secret Garden - London Children’s Ballet

This May, The Secret Garden is performed by a stunningly talented all-child cast at the Lyric Hammersmith.
How to: Get Your Dog Fix in London

How to: Get Your Dog Fix in London

If you love dogs but you’re not an owner just yet, find out how to get your canine fix in London!

Your inbox deserves a little culture!