A yakuza enforcer is ordered to secretly drive his beloved colleague to be assassinated. But when the colleague unceremoniously disappears en route, the trip that follows is a twisted, surre... Read allA yakuza enforcer is ordered to secretly drive his beloved colleague to be assassinated. But when the colleague unceremoniously disappears en route, the trip that follows is a twisted, surreal and horrifying experience.A yakuza enforcer is ordered to secretly drive his beloved colleague to be assassinated. But when the colleague unceremoniously disappears en route, the trip that follows is a twisted, surreal and horrifying experience.
As with his other great masterworks, such as Audition (1999), Birds (2000), Visitor Q (2001) and The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001), Miike takes the story in so many continually contrasting and self-consciously abstract directions as to render any notion of a single interpretation entirely void. Instead, he bombards the audience with a seemingly endless barrage of repeatedly warped visions, uncomfortable scenarios and bursts of disarming black comedy to continually shock, amuse and perturb us into a sense of ultimate submission. Eventually, the point of the film becomes less important that the sub-textual ideas behind it and the surreal and over-the-top manner in which the director depicts it - with the tone of the film switching continually from the first scene to the last, as the absurdities of the Yakuza genre that Miike knows so well are persistently ripped-to-shreds and turned into fodder for this meta-physical, psycho-sexual conundrum.
With this in mind, it is best to approach Gozu as a prolonged nightmare, complete with personal demons and elements of religious imagery interweaving, as all notions of character and conventional narrative development are done away with in favour of an almost stream of consciousness presentation where the real, the dream and the purely metaphorical are smashed together and left in shards for the audience to reinterpret as they see fit. With Gozu, more so than any of his other recent pictures, Miike takes his personal style further than even the hall-of-mirrors-like surrealism of Audition; creating a dark and distorted recreation of a nameless Japanese underworld that is labyrinthine and claustrophobic throughout, whilst simultaneously jarring us back and forth with Buddhist symbolism, bizarre caricatures and a continual hum of aural, industrialised ambiance. The whole thing is further heightened by the glowing yellow sepia tones of the cinematography, merging with the occasional shards of red and blue lighting, the lingering shadows around the edges of the frame and the often distancing and exaggerated camera angles and choices of location.
With these factors in place, it would be easy to categorise Gozu as a horror film; however, this simply isn't the case. As with many of Miike's more iconic films, Gozu follows no singular genre or style; moving freely between the characteristics of illogical comedy, knock-about buddy picture, gritty Yakuza-thriller, unrequited romance and psychological horror story seemingly simultaneously. Obviously, when we take this approach into consideration, Gozu won't be the kind of film that appeals to everyone, with a certain interest and familiarity with Miike as a filmmaker required by the audience to really appreciate the sense of humour and the continual shifts in tone. Even then, multiple viewing will be needed for the audience to fully digest the film's central message and layers of potential interpretation. However, it's definitely worth it, especially for anyone with a keen interest in the work of similarly minded filmmakers like David Lynch, Terry Gilliam, Sogo Ishii, Ken Russell, David Cronenberg and Shinya Tsukamoto.
Gozu takes the surreal horror and ambient farce of films like The Happiness of the Katakuris and Visitor Q to the next conceivable level of cinematic deconstruction, self-reference and meta-textual despair; as we literally submerge ourselves in a homosexual love story played out against a self-aware purgatory-like construction, rife with the allusions to the filmmakers aforementioned, and further applied alongside the desolate use of landscapes, jarring shifts from parody to horror and the freewheeling structure of the narrative itself. Combined with the fine performances from Hideki Sone, Kimika Yoshino, Tetsurô Tamba and Miike regulars Sho Aikawa and Renji Ishibashi, Gozu is easily one of its directors best and most unique endeavours; an arch, dead-pan, deranged and often dangerous sub-textual trawl through one man's despair and Freudian confusion dressed up as a post-apocalyptic fable of ridiculous gangster theatrics, role playing, gender metamorphosis and pure, existentialist angst.
- Dec 29, 2007