Today in Takashi Miike week I watched Gozu (2003)
Gozu has a reputation of being one of the directors more incomprehensible and weird films. A young yakuza is ordered to kill an older member whom he looks up too but who has been acting very erratically. They take a trip out to rural Japan and things get weird.
This film is dense with a surreal atmosphere that i would compare to David Lynch, especially Twin Peaks. While much of the dialogue and many of the events are humorously farcical in nature, they are shot like a horror with a downright terrifying ambient soundtrack. there is a stressful atmosphere to this film, it is alienating and off-putting. I found myself dreading what might happen next, yet not able to articulate to myself why as the characters were not in any significant danger.
Remember when I mentioned that one of Miike’s recurring themes was the latent homo-eroticism of Japanese culture, especially organized criminal culture? Well that is perhaps the central theme of this film. While I hesitate before assigning any one meaning to this film, it seems that the underlying narrative is that of the young yakuza becoming aware of his homosexuality. Miike seems to be presenting a very bleak view of how Japanese culture deals with sexual taboo with the aforementioned stressful atmosphere and an underlying sense of paranoia.
The film does have a rather serious pacing issue though. It becomes somewhat episodic during the middle act and it begins to feel padded with weirdness. The film decompresses and once the impact of the frequently disturbing behavior begins to wane. Once the film begins to reach the third act it feels as though it is about to end, yet it pulls out a whole new chapter to the events.
Pacing aside the disturbing and bizarre imagery blends well with an understated madcap humour in Gozu. The principle cast react very amusingly to the nightmare around them and while it may seem to meander it is worth sticking with for its crowning moment of crazy at the end. 4/5