Review: Gozu (2003)

Takashi Miike is a controversial filmmaker, and Gozu is one of his most controversial films to date. It was banned from cinemas, and yet it was invited to the Cannes Film Festival. It was loved by many, but others were disgusted by it. So, how did I find the viewing experience? Well, let me try and explain.

The story begins with the killing of a ‘Yakuza attack dog’ (more like an innocent cute little puppy) by Ozaki, a member of the Azamawari crew. The big boss quite rightly thinks this guy is totally mad, and so he orders Minami, another member of the crew, to dispose of Ozaki. Minami happens to be Ozaki’s good friend and protégé, someone with whom he has shared many of his secrets and fantasies. Just as Minami is struggling with what he should do, Ozaki dies in the most unusual fashion. What complicates matters is that Ozaki’s body disappears for some unknown reason, and Minami goes on a bizarre journey in search of his gang brother’s dead body…

This film is from the ‘Yakuza Horror Theatre’, but is actually a genre-bending piece of cinema from the genius mind of Miike. Yes, it has some scary parts, but there are scenes which are typical of yakuza movies, and you might not have guessed it – it is also incredibly funny.

The movie is basically a series of absurd encounters experienced by the main character Minami, played nicely by Hideki Sone, who portrays his character’s innocence very well. Minami travels to strange places, such as the restaurant, the inn and the dumping ground for dead bodies. In his journey, he meets a bunch of fantastically weird characters, played by a group of strong supporting actors. The standouts amongst the cast are Keiko Tomita and Harumi Sone, who play the sister and brother running the Masakasu Inn, and they give great performances that really bring those characters to life. The cow-headed man, whom the film is named after, also makes a brief but unforgettable appearance. The actors really show their professionalism in realising their characters, by wearing uncomfortable makeup and having to do some rather strange things for their scenes.

Many of the scenes are outrageous, and much of what happens does not make any sense. The adventure seems to be a blur between Minami’s fantasies and reality. Some viewers will be put off by the illogical narrative, and others will be disgusted by the more challenging scenes in the film. And the most shocking of all is the climactic final scene, which will leave most viewers speechless.

The cinematography and lighting of the film are great. The images are vivid, and the use of colours (especially red and orange) is brilliant. Handheld cameras are used well in helping to create the eerie atmosphere of many scenes. Just beware that much of what you see will stay with you for days to come.

Gozu is extreme cinema at its best. It is twisted and insane, and it shocks and entertains the audience at the same time. It is wild and unpredictable like a roller-coaster ride for the brain. The creativity and imagination seen in the film are amazing. Those with stomachs strong enough to sit through it would have experienced a most original and unique piece of cinema. Other viewers, however, will find it too offensive and quickly reach for the ‘stop’ button on their remote controls. I just hope that this review can help those who have not seen the film to decide whether it is their cup of milk or not.

9 delicious drops of unpasteurised milk out of 10.
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