2 April 2007 | Quinoa1984
THE wild goose chase of Takashi Miike's career; enough to give Freud a hemorrhage
Let it be known that Gozu won't be for everyone. This recommendation is not for a mass audience in the slightest. This is not Takashi Miike, filmmaker behind the modern cult hits Ichi the Killer and Audition, as you'd might expect. And yet, if you've seen these films, to an ironic extent, you should know what to expect. Gozu is a fabulous act of surrealistic tastelessness, a peering into filmmaker and screenwriter into what can f*** around enough in their psyches to have it blasted back into these characters here. So much can be read into everything that goes on, though I wondered at first if the bulk of film could do better than the first twenty minutes, where a psychotic yakuza- who sees little dogs and cars as specifically "Yakuza killing"- is being taken to be offed by his 'brother'. Whether it's really his brother or not AT FIRST doesn't seem important, until he loses him while stopping at a restaurant. From there on in, we're given a near shaggy-dog story, as if done in the ideals of reaching Lynchian proportions even still with a unique attitude and sense of humor.
If I tried to say too much of what goes on in Gozu one might just stop reading altogether - or be anticipating it, depending on the fan. Miike's style here is stripped down to essentials this time, which is very fitting for the story and characters he's relaying. Not that he's one to skimp on atmosphere, far from it, and if there's one thing he succeeds at in homaging/parodying Lynch it's in the use of sound, and how much varied colors in the lighting can make a difference for the psychological effect. Then again, one would need such a heightened sense of reality, or rather in Gozu as it's sort of not rushed, taking its time with its backwoods gang: the guy with the half-white face dazed out of his gourde; the lactating woman who, forgive me for actually writing this, isn't quite as effective as the lactating woman in Visitor Q; the various owners and hanger-ons at the places Minami, our protagonist, goes around to find his brother. It finally leads him to a woman, who says to him something unbelievable that, somehow, he buys without a second thought (at this point, as Jodorowsky used to say on his film sets I'd wager, 'why not'?) By now someone watching this will have said more than once "alright, this is starting to get weird", but there's more in store on the side of the personal side, and something that happens that, as Miike can only do, actually softens the much more disturbing implications of the shock before the BIGGER shocker.
Gozu is somehow, through all of its deliberate sideshow irregulars, ominous signs and the little knife-stabs of circumstance encountered by the wandering yakuza, very funny throughout because of something elemental Miike knows about this: it's the only way it could work, if it does at all. Other reviewers have and will continue to argue the pointlessness, the meandering, and how it goes too far over the line of decency in films. The first two can be arguable, but the last part is what Miike works best at here: take the audience over the line, and still say "it's only a joke." I'd have to imagine that, if only out of the little behavioral bits in Gozu, that Miike was behind the camera laughing silly. He means for it to be a serious presentation, to be sure, but what are we to make of a brother and sister who can conjure up dead spirits by one constantly thwacking the other with a fly swatter and chanting incantations? Or a classic dream involving a cow head and some sexual jealousy? The opening to the movie, in a sense, sets up the first litmus test, as some might want to turn it off right away. Yet its the nature of a surrealist, as Miike goes for here, to get away with vicious, wicked pranks that get the audience in an uproar, and since its never done too draggingly, and the thinking gets richer in the nature of the characters as it goes along, it's a successful work.
It's maddening and about societal madness, with enough U-turns and carefully composed visuals for two Miike movies, and it's one of the true like it or don't films of the past several years. For me, Miike and his writer Saito have not-so-subtly hit it out of the park.