Film Review: We Are X

Stephen Kijak’s documentary We Are X is an engaging portrait of a rock band X Japan. The film is informative and retains a good tone throughout.

X Japan are big in Japan, quite literally. X Japan are the country’s biggest rock band in history, yet are little known outside of Japan. The film looks at the history of the band, as they prepare for a huge concert…

Director Stephen Kijak’s film We Are X focuses on X Japan as they prepare for a gig at Madison Square Garden. In the days leading up to the concert, the filmmaker speaks to band members and relays the history of the group. The dominant focus is drummer and pianist Yoshiki, who delivers most of the film’s commentary. He is a fascinating character, and Kijak does not shy away from some of the realities (Yoshiki’s reliance on medical support for ongoing issues, for example).

Kijak charts X Japan’s successes, and their journey from teenagers rehearsing together after school to stadium-filling rock band. Viewers see this history, and indeed the present day activity, through the eyes of Yoshiki.  In addition to a relaying of history, there is an emphasis on how Yoshiki felt at the time of notable events. Other band members are interviewed during the course of the film, but action is viewed through the filter of the drummer. At times the film feels almost like a stream of Yoshiki’s consciousness, as he refers frequently to his feelings about key events, rather than the detail of events themselves.

We Are X offers insight into some of the tragic events that have affected the band. Despite the loss, the tone of the film remains upbeat overall. Kijak ponders the significant question of why X Japan never made it big abroad. The thoughts of musicians such as Gene Simmons add further this meditation. The intimation seems clear; had X Japan been an English-language Western band, they would have been as big as their better known contemporaries.

Kijak does not spoon feed viewers unfamiliar with the band. Instead, a history of band is offered, but this is not comprehensive. We Are X offers enough for viewers to ruminate on, without answering all their questions.

We Are X is available on exclusive Steelbook and DVD on 22nd May 2017