Gozu: Asian Cinema Gone Wild

After hours upon hours of research and scrutiny, I’ve come to the conclusion that Takashi Miike is twisted. I’m not sure what it was that tipped me off. It might have been the microphone sodomy in Visitor Q or the vomit-slurping in Audition. There were several other subtle clues that pointed to Miike’s eruptive dotage, but I finally ciphered the nubilous jabberwocky. I kid because I love. If Gozu doesn’t convince you that Miike rules the planet, don’t bother with the rest of his filmography. This flick isn’t just David Lynch on acid; it’s David Lynch on acid on acid. I’ll struggle with this review because it’s difficult to explain Gozu‘s sublimity without divulging plot details. If I propounded half of the galvanic, adventitious twists that this temperamental punchinello takes, your viewing experience would be ever so slightly diluted.

Let’s see here (this is like walking through a mine field). Minami, a yakuza gang member, is ordered to kill a fellow gangster who is thought to be insane. This fellow member also happens to be Minami’s brother. I’ll stop there. I wouldn’t be able to do the narrative justice with mere words anyway. As with Miike’s other masterworks, Gozu can’t be filed under one gradation. It’s part grueling horror, part capricious comedy, part digressory mindfuck, and part mobster movie. Not only does the film sheathe a gallimaufry of genres, but it does so with conviction. Miike always elicits the exact response that he’s looking to evoke. The comedic elements are so abrupt and spasmodic, that you have no choice but to laugh. Likewise, the graphic sequences are so uncomfortably shocking, that you have no choice but to palpitate in your seat.

The cast is asked to do some, shall we say, awkward things, but they nail their respective roles. Hideki Sone is grounded as the “straight man.” It could be argued that he plays it too straight at times and fails to react with earnest believability. Regardless, he comes across as the only three-dimensional person in this astern pageantry. All of the supporting players fully commit themselves to what could be perceived as punitive, ineradicable lunacy. Quite the noble deed. The chain of events is lacquered with impulsive vagaries, but surprisingly enough, things move along at a sclerotic snail’s pace. The bloated 130-minute running time doesn’t help matters, and when you couple it with Miike’s penchant for silence, you’ve got yourself a true test of endurance. Sure, the film is amazing, but it does putter in spots. That said, I don’t know if Gozu would be as effective with more selective editing. Every frame counts.

I don’t know if this is a social commentary, a statement about the family unit, or a free-for-all freakout that is simply weird for the sake of being weird. More than likely, it’s a combination of all three. One could interpret Minami’s stormily telestic journey as a climacteric plea for a life of normalcy. Or perhaps this is Ozaki’s story. Maybe Gozu concerns his lustration, the exigent process of depuration. Maybe it’s about the historical significance of ladles. That’s an in-joke, but you’ll have to buy/rent/forcefully procure this film to get it. It’s not the best starting place for those itching to sample Takashi Miike’s genius (for an aperitif, go with either Audition or The Happiness of the Katakuris), but it’s a treat for those who are familiar with the man’s many quirks. Though he has avouched that he’s done with the horror genre, cult gourmands would be well advised to comb through the entirety of his exceptional resume.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

seven − 4 =