Gozu (2003)

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*. Gozu is a movie made to look at, and dream over, but not think too much about. “Everything I’m about to tell you is a joke.” You’ve been warned.
*. Sakichi Sato, the screenwriter from Ichi the Killer, had to have the script done in a week or two, and was told it didn’t have to make sense. Which is something that makes a writer’s job a lot easier.
*. That’s Sato as the crossdressed waiter, by the way. A curious role to inject oneself into. Taksashi Miike appears as one of the locals (the one in the shiny gold outfit) blathering on about the weather. It’s fun then when Minami points at the two of them and says “You’re all in this together.” He’s an actor in their absurd co-production.

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*. I’ve listened to a lot of interviews with Miike, and I have to say that unless something is really not coming through in translation then he has to be one of the most maddening people in the world to listen to. He can ramble on forever without saying anything. It’s a real talent, and after a while I find myself sitting back and enjoying it. But as far as getting an explanation as to what’s going on here, he’s not giving anything away. In fact, he seems totally indifferent to, if not downright dismissive of, any effort at interpretation.
*. So: no help from the director or the writer. And yet this is a film that cries out for interpretation. All this oddness, all those crazy plot turns and bizarre images, what do they mean? What is that video that Ozaki is watching at the beginning? What sort of a boundary does the canal the car stops at signify? What does the House that Drips Milk represent?
*. I don’t think it means/signifies/symbolizes/represents much of anything. You can pull out a theme like sexual anxiety, but beyond that you’re just freelancing. And there’s nothing wrong with that. A movie like this will mean something different to everyone who watches it. It communicates at a subconscious or unconscious level.

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*. For what it’s worth, my own take is based on the belief that Ozaki has planned everything in advance. He pretends to act crazy to throw Azamawari off his scent. But he is sure to tell Minawi that he knows what to do just before he disappears, and is sure to give him the consequential pair of crotchless panties that they will need for later. His plan seems to have been to kill Azamawari all along, but to do it in such a way that he and Minami could get away with it.
*. At least that’s my reading.
*. It’s a movie that’s often compared to Lynch and Cronenberg. Lynch is obvious to me, from the general sense of weirdness and presence of Jungian oddballs down to the languid pace and visual colouring. The cow-head man might as well be a backwards-talking dwarf. But Cronenberg I don’t see at all.
*. Another possible influence, or just another example of the same sort of sensibility, is the fiction of Haruki Murakami. It seems to me that this is a film very much in his manner.
*. Is it just my DVD, or is there a big colour shift after Ozaki disappears from the back of the car? It seems like everything after that is shot through a yellow filter.

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*. Yes, sticking a ladle up your ass is . . . odd. But it’s just the utensil. Azamawari is a man of a certain age and he obviously needs some kind of prostate stimulation to get it up. That’s not uncommon.
*. I wonder how the translators for the subtitles got “Holy fuck!” out of Minami’s grunts at the end when he is caught in a tight spot. I have trouble hearing any words being expressed clearly, but I don’t know Japanese.
*. Whatever you think of the final “birth” scene, the effects are impressive, especially on a tight budget. It looks quite realistic, given that it’s a physiological impossibility. The scales should be all wrong, but somehow you don’t notice.

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*. I like the nod to Rashomon in the failed spirit summoning. But it’s also typical of this movie’s schizophrenic attitude. Obviously it’s a movie with a lot more supernatural going on than in Rashomon, and yet at the same time it dismisses such talk as ridiculous.
*. What is that tattoo on Minami’s back? I know it isn’t filled in yet, but is it going to be a crayfish?

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*. Like Lynch, Miike has an eye that makes his puzzles fun to look at even when there’s nothing going on behind the visuals. I love all the stand-off two shots, like the one where Minami and Ozaki are balanced by what look like two small trees standing by the river. And there’s a nice use of off-kilter overhead shots throughout with grids forming patterns in the composition (for example Minami throwing up, or when he comes back to the car to find the “new” Ozaki in the back seat). This suggests to me something thematic having to do with frames and perspectives, but I can’t lean on it any further than that.
*. “Everything is a joke.” It’s a very funny movie. The flat, unquestioning sense of the absurd is typical of a lot of contemporary comedy: the situation is ridiculous but the humour is in playing it straight. It’s basically the same approach as in any mockumentary.
*. Minami in Nagoya is the sane man in an insane world (“You’re not from Nagoya, are ya?”). Like all of us, he just has to learn to go along with it. That’s part of growing up.

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