SXSW Film Review: We Are X

Music doc explores the biggest band you never heard of

The cost of rock: Yoshiki, drummer with X Japan and central subject of SXSW music doc We Are X.

If X Japan were American and sang in English, they would be the biggest band in the world. So sayeth Gene Simmons of Kiss in We Are X, a history of the biggest band you never heard of.

This isn't the standard music documentary examination of a no-hope cult act that the world ignored. X are a Japanese institution. Pioneers of the Visual Kei scene of uber-glam metal (imagine Hanoi Rocks plus the Sisters of Mercy multiplied by Sigue Sigue Sputnik), they're a 30-million record-selling rock monster with a career longevity as a stadium act that matches leviathans like AC/DC and, yes, Kiss.

But just as this isn't the normal rock & roll underdog story. Director Stephen Kijak (Scott Walker: 30 Century Man, Jaco) isn't creating the standard slavish hagiography. Instead, he focuses on the unlikely artist and key founding member, Yoshiki Hayashi. It's a brilliant creative decision: Yoshiki is an open enigma, a fragile Stephen Tyler, a broken visionary whose career has been plagued by deaths, firings, and even a religious cult trying to destroy his band from within.

The narrative driver is the months of rehearsal and band reconstruction before X's 2014 gig at Madison Square Garden. But it's Yoshiki's agonized trips to the graveyard that has claimed so much of his family and his band that makes this movie soar.

And Yoshiki is the ultimate charismatic enigma, a drumming master who destroys his body every time he takes the stage. Kijak shows the pain, both physical and emotional, that decades of rock have taken on the man. But there's no sense of self-pity, or ostentatious self-glorification. Instead, Yoshiki is open and honest, a sad-eyed innocent who has been broken time and again on the rocks of his tumultuous industry. Yet he turns up time and time again to entertain the fans he loves, and who clearly adore him back.


We Are X

24 Beats Per Second

Keep up with all our SXSW coverage at austinchronicle.com/sxsw.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
<i>Hearts Beat Loud</i> When Nick Offerman’s Around
Hearts Beat Loud When Nick Offerman’s Around
Parks and Rec star talks Austin, breakdancing, and the state of humanity

Dan Gentile, June 22, 2018

SXSW Film Review: <i>Upgrade</i>
Review: Upgrade
Cyberpunk action thriller has a few hidden features

Richard Whittaker, March 19, 2018

More by Richard Whittaker
Watch Austin Horror
Watch Austin Horror "Conversion Therapist" Raise its Funds Sunday Night
Short film has last-ditch backer party tonight (with queso)

June 24, 2018

Get Ready to <i>Blaze</i> With This New Trailer
Blaze Trailer Arrives
First trailer arrives for biopic of Austin music legend

June 22, 2018

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

SXSW 2016, SXSW Film 2016, SXSW, Documentary, We Are X, X Japan, Visual Kei, Yoshiki

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2018

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle