AKA: YAKUZA HORROR THEATRE: GOZU
Directed by Takashi Miike
Written by Sakichi Satô
Produced by Kana Koido & Harumi Sone
Cinematography by Kazunari Tanaka
Music by Kôji Endô
Cast: Hideki Sone, Sho Aikawa, Kimika Yoshino, Shohei Hino, Keiko Tomita, Harumi Sone & Renji Ishibashi
2003/ 129 mins/Color/2.0 Dolby Digital Sound
1:85.1 Anamorphic/Japanese/Japan/NTSC Region 1
Web Site: http://www.pathfinderpictures.com
Review from the Pathfinder Home Entertainment DVD
Takashi Miike has always been an incredibly versatile director, especially having directed some sixty films in the last twenty years. Whether he’s making a gorefest, a musical or a yakuza gangster film he seems to be able to bring an interesting visual style with a unique storyline to the table. GOZU is no exception. Taking what he learned from filming VISITOR Q, Miike compounds the outrageous situations from that movie. This brings us a more over the top, surrealist portrayal of a yakuza crime film with a humorous interior coated as an eccentric nightmarish dream world.
Ozaki (Shô Aikawa, DEAD OR ALIVE) works for a yakuza crime ring. During a meeting at a restaurant with his yakuza clan he sees a Chihuahua outside the restaurant and insists it’s “a trained yakuza attack dog”, sent to kill “yakuza made men”. When he takes the dog and viciously murders him by bashing him off the pavement and swinging him off the window (in a comical over the top fashion) the organization realizes he’s lost his mind, and needs to be eliminated. The kingpin (Renji Ishibashi, GRAVEYARD OF HONOR) assigns Ozaki’s friend, Minami (Hideki Sone, YAKUZA DEMON) to get rid of him.
Minami is obviously conflicted with killing his “brother”. He and Ozaki head out on the road in a black convertible, unbeknownst to Ozaki his assigned assassination is approaching. Minami coincidentally suddenly slams on the breaks Ozaki smashes his face off the dashboard, and appears to be dead. Minami tries calling his boss to see what the next move should be but when his cell phone is out of the service area, so he stops at a diner to collect his thoughts. When he returns to the vehicle he finds that Ozaki is no longer in the car. Minami is then forced on a Lynchian journey of bizarre characters and situations, to find Ozaki dead or alive and take him to the yakuza dump to complete his assignment.
Rotten luck follows Minami on his journey for Ozaki when he runs over a bone giving him a flat tire. A man with part of his face devoid of pigment, named Nose (Shôhei Hino) is sitting off in a field looking at a nudie magazine when this happens, and offers to help him find his yakuza “brother”. Nose leads him into even weirder territory with characters that speak in riddles, and then to a bizarre bed and breakfast run by a sexually liberated elderly woman, who demonstrates a cultural taboo which was explored by Miike in the past with VISITOR Q. The woman can apparently produce breast milk. This becomes evident when Minami stays the night and milk leaks from the ceiling in his room. Proof is even given when he walks in on her self milking techniques as she fills bottles for drinking. While at the bed and breakfast Minami finds a connection between the outlandish situations and Ozaki, and brings him into even more bizarre territory when he meets an incredibly attractive woman that states she is in fact Ozaki.
Miike has no doubt revealed that he is the Japanese equivalent of David Lynch with GOZU. GOZU is filled with some of the most bizarre situations and characters you will ever see in a film. Minami’s boss shows abnormalities with his inability to get an erection without having stuffed a soup ladle in his ass. There is even a sequence which gives meaning to the title of the film featuring a Gozu which is a cow-headed demon straight out of Buddhist mythology. The half human half cow figure enters the picture, demonstrating some amazing makeup effects work. To top it all off, a woman gives birth to a grown man, which I don’t believe has ever been accomplished in a film. It isn’t achieved through CGI either!
Overall Miike brings us on an interesting nonlinear adventure into a surreal realm which could best be captured off screen in a Dali painting. However, GOZU isn’t bereft from imperfections. It suffers from poor pacing and an overlong runtime leaving the viewer a little antsy at times. Avid followers of Miike won’t find this very detrimental to the films enjoyment. There are enough interesting elements to keep you focused. If Miike admirers can sit through the sluggishly paced AUDITION without prejudice, then GOZU should not be noticeably dragging.
Pathfinder Home Entertainment gives us a first class presentation of GOZU with its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Visually the film seems more washed out than your average film released today, but this should be expected since many Asian films don’t appear as brightly colored as they probably should. There are few print blemishes, and practically no artifacting, producing an overall pleasant video presentation. The dolby digital 2.0 Japanese soundtrack is ample, with no problems in volume levels. The 2.0 audio displays Kôji Endô’s eerie score quite nicely. Optional English subtitles are available.
Pathfinder’s presentation of GOZU on DVD has no shortage of supplemental material. An audio commentary accompanies the film conducted by film critics Andy Klein, and Wade Major. They are very knowledgeable when it comes to Japanese cinema and Miike in general as a filmmaker, and they make several connections between the cast and crew throughout. Personally I didn’t need a commentary by two people that didn’t have anything to do with the film. They even state that this type of film shouldn’t need a commentary. The film should be viewed on a more subconscious level, and I agree. Within the special features contains am essay by Tom Mes, the (author of “Agitator: The Cinema of Takashi Miike”), titled “Gozu, or: How the Ghost of Lynch went to Buddhist Hell”. Mes gives us a great read and delves further into the Buddhist mythology that GOZU is derived from. It becomes evident that the critics who recorded the commentary for the film more than likely read Mes’s book “Agitator”. Under the interview subsection we get three separate interviews with Miike. The first two interviews are conducted by the critics who voiced the commentary. They are intelligent, so they ask interesting questions (including the fast pace in which Miike is able to make films). The final and more relaxed interview is conducted by Eli Roth (CABIN FEVER), who is later joined by director Guillermo Del Toro (CRONOS). The three have a good time together, while joking about such things as taboos explored in filmmaking, as well as being called “sick” for the type of films they all make. Next up is a very well done 20 minute ‘Production Featurette’ showing tidbits of daily shooting and how they achieved some of the makeup effects. Just know that the breast milking isn’t an effect. Continuing there is also a US and Japanese theatrical trailer, followed by biographies for Takashi Miike, Sho Aikawa, Hideki Sone, Kimika Yoshino, Renji Ishibashi, and Harumi Sone. To finish the extras we get the option to listen to the films ‘Title Theme Song’ as well as a pointless ‘Still Gallery’, and some trailers for other films released on DVD by Pathfinder Pictures.
This Film Features:
Review by Chris Mayo. All Right Reserved. 2005. ©
You can purchase this DVD at our official sponser by clicking on the image above.