phone mail2 facebook twitter play
REVIEW: We Are X

REVIEW: We Are X

23 October 2016 Stephanie Brandhuber  | Entertainment

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

Free Fire - An Interview with Ben Wheatley

Free Fire - An Interview with Ben Wheatley

Ben Wheatley’s films are sick and twisted in the best way possible. With Free Fire, the genre experimenter goes for pure fun, delivering a 70s-set action-comedy…

Brexit, moving to London and Denial - An Interview with Rachel Weisz

Brexit, moving to London and Denial - An Interview with Rachel Weisz

London born and Cambridge educated, Rachel Weisz has wowed audiences from her breakthrough role as Egyptologist Evelyn in The Mummy to her Oscar-winning performance as…

‘You don’t want to play the goofy sidekick or best friend characters anymore’ - An Interview with Dev Patel

‘You don’t want to play the goofy sidekick or best friend characters anymore’ - An Interview with Dev Patel

Born in West London, we first saw Dev Patel on our screens in the anarchic Bristol-based TV drama Skins, before he got the biggest of…

Beyond Moonlight: BFI Flare LGBT Film Festival

Beyond Moonlight: BFI Flare LGBT Film Festival

It is now fifty years since the 1967 sexual offences act was passed. What better way to celebrate the progressing freedoms of the LGBT community…

London Asian Film Festival: Interview with Pushpinder Chowdry

London Asian Film Festival: Interview with Pushpinder Chowdry

The London Asian Film Festival returns this week for another packed programme of the best independent cinema from South Asia. We talk to the festival…

Kong: Skull Island – An Interview with Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Kong: Skull Island – An Interview with Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Jordan Vogt-Roberts has a confession: “I wanted to sneak an indie film into a big blockbuster”. The director’s speaking about Kong: Skull Island, a monster movie with…

Certain Women - An Interview with Kelly Reichardt

Certain Women - An Interview with Kelly Reichardt

Kelly Reichardt, in person, is more talkative than her wonderful, quiet films. As demonstrated by her past features – including Old Joy, Wendy and Lucy and…

‘There is no better place than London - I just love its energy’ - An Interview with Actress Ruth Negga

‘There is no better place than London - I just love its energy’ - An Interview with Actress Ruth Negga

Ethiopian-Irish actress Ruth Negga is one of Hollywood’s most exciting rising stars. The actress has received countless nods for her performance in Loving, including most recently…

Oscars Alternatives: What to Watch Other than the Academy Awards

Oscars Alternatives: What to Watch Other than the Academy Awards

Tired of the Oscars? Yes, us too – and there’s still a few hours of endless hype and interviews left to go! No need to avoid…

FILM REVIEW: Moonlight

FILM REVIEW: Moonlight

The Oscars are just around the corner and the film world has been cleaved in two between awards hopefuls and everything else. Spare a thought…

More inspiration...

‘Being haunted by the past is something I’m creatively turned on by’ - An Interview with Brian J Smith

‘Being haunted by the past is something I’m creatively turned on by’ - An Interview with Brian J Smith

We spoke to Stargate Universe and Sense 8 actor about his latest role in the Glass Menagerie, the roles that most inspire him and the surprising purchase he made with his first acting paycheck.
Free Fire - An Interview with Ben Wheatley

Free Fire - An Interview with Ben Wheatley

Ben Wheatley’s films are sick and twisted in the best way possible. We talk to him about his latest film, Free Fire.
This Week 27 March - 2 April

This Week 27 March - 2 April

We find out what will be keeping you occupied in the capital this week.
The Best Places to Watch the Boat Race in London

The Best Places to Watch the Boat Race in London

Whether you're Oxford, Cambridge or (literally) somewhere in between, find out the best places to watch the Boat Race 2017.
Deutsche Börse Prize Exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery

Deutsche Börse Prize Exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery

This diverse exhibition takes in landscapes, travel diaries and post-modern self-portraits.

Your inbox deserves a little culture!