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Review: Gozu

For such a gonzo experiment, Gozu is surprisingly linear and only intermittingly funny.

Photo: Pathfinder Pictures

Though infinitely less violent than Ichi the Killer, Miike Takashi’s Gozu similarly unravels like an extended comedy routine. Per his Azamawari crime boss’s demand, Minami (Sone Hideki) must get rid of his “brother” Ozaki (Aikawa Shô) at a Nagoya disposal facility. Seemingly insane, Ozaki confuses a chihuahua for a “yakuza attack dog” (and later a car for a “yakuza attack car”), but when Ozaki accidentally dies and his corpse mysteriously disappears, the weirdness that ensues calls into question Minami’s own sanity.

On his Odyssean journey to retrieve Ozaki, Minami encounters a series of weirdos: a man plagued with pigment discoloration, three transsexuals running a coffee shop, a perpetually lactating motel owner and her brother, an American liquor store owner, and a chick claiming to be Ozaki himself. Gozu’s more startling sight gags and body horrors—from the lactating breasts to the unexpected onset of rigor mortis—are recycled from Miike’s brilliant Visitor Q, a subversive freak show that worked as a kind of defense of family. (As for the delirious birth-cum-exorcism that closes the film, shades of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead abound.)

Considering the attention paid to Minami’s Frankenstein-like cock and his alleged phimosis operation, it’s obvious that the psychosexual objects in the film (like the breast-like light fixture that drips mother’s milk into a bowl of soup) are intended as embodiments of the character’s countless hang-ups and tendencies. But Minami remains a cipher, a shallow participant in a hall of mirrors that reflects and says more about Miike’s own obsessions.

For such a gonzo experiment, Gozu is surprisingly linear and only intermittingly funny (my favorite gag: the American-born liquor store owner reading her Japanese lines off cue cards). Unlike Ichi the Killer and the considerably shorter Visitor Q, Gozu’s random acts of hysteria don’t seem to add up to anything or say anything about its characters.

Cast: Sone Hideki, Aikawa Shô, Yoshino Kimika, Hino Shôhei, Tomita Keiko, Sone Harumi, Ishibashi Renji, Endô Ken’ichi, Katô Masaya, Kawachi Tamio Director: Miike Takashi Screenwriter: Sakichi Satô Distributor: Pathfinder Pictures Running Time: 129 min Rating: NR Year: 2003 Buy: Video

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