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Critics' Choice
WE ARE X: A GIANT BAND’S
INTIMATE STORY
10/16/17

By Simon Glickman

The documentary We are X is not about the L.A. punk band but about the Japanese hard-rock trailblazers known stateside as X-Japan. Led by two childhood friends, drummer-pianist Yoshiki and vocalist Toshi, the band has become an institution in its home country since its founding in 1982. Fusing epic hard rock with classical elements (Yoshiki is classically trained) and new-wave style, they paved the way for countless other bands; “Because of them,” one of their peers relates, “rock received citizenship in Japan.” (Kudos from the Emperor sealed the deal.) They’ve earned the respect of Sir George Martin and fired the imagination of Stan Lee, who immortalized Yoshiki and bandmates in a comic. Testimonials from Marilyn Manson, Gene Simmons, Wes Borland and other hard-rock luminaries underscore the band’s innovation and enduring power.

We Are X (from Passion Pictures, in association with Prettybird) provides an intimate look at the struggles of the members, notably Yoshiki, plagued by physical problems throughout his life and shadowed by the loss of his father, who committed suicide when Yoshiki was a boy. Indeed, the specter of death is ever-present in X-Japan’s music. But so is the triumph of life, as evidenced by the joy the band brings to the stage, their powerful camaraderie and the adulation of their fans. We Are X captures these emotional dynamics effectively, and the band members are quite forthcoming.

The acclaimed doc, directed by Stephen Kijak (Stones in Exile, Jaco) and produced by Diane Becker, Jonathan McHugh and Jonathan Platt, is available on iTunes, Amazon, Blu-ray and other platforms after a triumphant festival run.