Gozu (Gokudo Kyofu Daigekijo)
Director - Takashi Miike, Producers - Harumi Sone & Kana Koido, Director of Photography - Kazunari Tanaka, Script - Sakichi Satô, Cast - Shô Aikawa, Ken'ichi Endô, Kanpei Hazama, Shôhei Hino, Renji Ishibashi, Masaya Katô, Tamio Kawachi, Susumu Kimura, Hiroyuki Nagato, Hitoshi Ozawa, Kazuyoshi Ozawa, Harumi Sone, Hideki Sone, Tetsurô Tanba, Keiko Tomita
By Russell Garwood
Despite being an avid Miike Takeshi fan, upon entering the UK premiere of Gozu – one of his latest releases – I had absolutely no idea what to expect. The undeniably prolific (and completely insane) Japanese director accepts all work offers, and as such has worked in virtually every genre imaginable – often redefining and improving them as he goes. Hence it was no surprise that this movie shatters preconceptions, and, as always with Miike, defies all expectations. A yakuza meets horror meets comedy with love interest, the opening sequence of Gozu shows gangster Ozaki (Sho Aikawa) protecting his boss from a trained attack dog. Within seconds the highly vicious Chihuahua is no more, having met its end splattered on plate glass window, and the boss is none too impressed with Ozaki’s mental stability.
As a result, underling Minami (Hideki Sone) is instructed to take his brother to a “family disposal dump”. On the way Ozaki is killed sooner than expected when his brother brakes sharply. Minami enters a roadside café in order to inform his boss, only for the dead body to disappear while he is inside. Following a body hunt and a flat tyre, the underling is stranded in a wonderland of odd and extremely funny characters. These include a lactating inn hostess, a transvestite café owner, a sake vendor who reads his lines straight from the script, some “disposal site” operatives who press and keep their victims’ skins, and a Minotaur. And in case you think that’s not enough, Ozaki is reincarnated as a beautiful woman, who tries to seduce the yakuza boss.
This all makes for an uproariously funny, decidedly odd-ball movie, which had (the majority of) the cinema in stitches. It is also a complete departure from the blood-curdling violence of Miike’s recent work. This is all relative, however, and those with sensitive dispositions may do well to avoid it nevertheless.
Despite it’s insanity and dream/fever inspired logic, Gozu shows an intelligent approach which belies the occasional immaturity of the humour. Interesting themes include Minami’s sexual insecurities, a homoerotic link between the yakuza brothers - who shared much when alive and even more upon Ozaki’s re-incarnation - and the inimitable surrealism running throughout. The deliriously quirky script of Sakichi Sato marks a return to Ichi the Killer’s director/writer collaboration, and the cast sees many previous Miike actors return, including Hideki Sone (Agitator, Graveyard of Honour, Deadly Outlaw: Rekka), Sho Aikawa (DOA, Rainy Dog, Ley Lines, Shangri-La), and Tetsuro Tanba (The Happiness of the Katakuris).
One of the weirdest films I’ve ever seen, Gozu comes highly recommended - a perfect balance is struck between numerous elements, that many will appreciate. The film also goes to prove that Takeshi Miike loses none of his relevance, originality or creativity despite an increasingly hectic schedule (the workaholic now has a record of nine films in a year).