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  • Benjamin May

Gozu (2003) Review

From the twisted minds of Takashi Miike and Sakichi Sato comes this atmospheric and absurd crime comedy about a Yakuza underlings' quest to find his missing colleague. To discuss the plot any further would be an exercise in cruelty to uninitiated viewers, as to watch this film without knowing what'll happen next- or without knowing anything about it at all, for that matter- is an experience like no other. It's a terrifyingly hilarious tour through the subconscious to the darkest recesses of the mind, featuring the Lynchian-Cronenbergian mix of horror and comedy that is the hallmark of Takashi Miike's best work.

Hideki Sone- now known as Yuta Sone- plays the central character, Minami. A low-level Yakuza, Sone's Minami is a perfect conduit for the audience as the film burrows into the dark and strange. He is as disturbed by the spectacle of madness that confronts him as many viewers likely will be. At times the character bears a resemblance to Anthony Perkins' K in Orson Welles' version of 'The Trial', in that everyone around him doesn't appear at all disturbed by the confusing, bizarre scenes that are occurring. Minami is the only one perturbed by the happenings in 'Gozu', and Sone's naturalistic, bewildered performance is pitch perfect for the role.

Show Aikawa plays Minami's missing colleague Ozaki, and he is brilliantly unhinged. A frequent collaborator of Miike's, Aikawa is a very versatile actor with the admirable, enviable ability to give believable, grounded performances as outrageous characters (see him in Miike's 'Dead or Alive' series for proof of this notion). Few roles he's played have been as crazy as Ozaki though, a violent, paranoid Yakuza distrustful of dogs and humans alike. Though he has relatively little screen time, Aikawa leaves a lasting impression; and 'Gozu' may be one of the most memorable movies he's made with Miike.

The rest of the cast is made up of talented performers, with Renji Ishibashi- another frequent collaborator of Miike's- and Keiko Tomita standing out, playing two sick, strange characters. Miike usually gives Ishibashi roles as creepy, twisted people; and his character in 'Gozu'- a ladle-loving sadomasochist- may be the creepiest of the lot. Tomita plays an innkeeper Minami encounters along the way who has a very weird secret and she steals her scenes completely.

Kazunari Tanaka's cinematography is unobtrusively refined and he captures the outlandishly bizarre images in the film with real panache. Sakichi Sato and Miike worked together two years before on 'Ichi the Killer,' and his script for 'Gozu' is terrifically weird and wonderfully sinister- not to mention bizarrely funny. The film doesn't take itself too seriously- though its themes are dark and deep- and his strong screenplay reflects this. Many times, while wondering what the peculiar images signify and just what the hell is going on; most will also be laughing while watching 'Gozu.'

Yes, while most will find humour alongside the macabre in 'Gozu', it is almost a certainty that some will be nothing more or less than disgusted and discouraged at the spectacle of psychological, abstract horror in the film. If you are squeamish or easily perturbed, you should probably avoid it at all costs. If you appreciate the complex, the strange and the dark, however; then 'Gozu' is the film for you.


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