Gozu (2003)
By: M. Walsh on December 26, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Pathfinder Home Entertainment (USA). Region 1, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). Japanese DD 2.0. English Subtitles. 129 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director:Takashi Miike
Starring: Hideki Sone, Sho Aikawa, Kimika Yoshino, Shohei Hino
Screenplay: Sakichi Satô
Country: Japan
AKA: Gokudô kyôfu dai-gekijô: Gozu
An up-and-coming Yakuza, Minami (Hideki Sone), is ordered to assassinate his beloved, and clearly psychotic "Brother" Ozaki (Sho Aikawa in a small but vital role). Before this deed can be committed, however, Ozaki disappears and Minami finds himself stranded in a small town, a town populated entirely by an assortment of strange, depraved and, in some cases, demonic inhabitants.

So, there it is. The synopsis for Takashi Miike's phenomenal Gozu. As fans of this astonishing director will know, narratives are simply a springboard for massive, outlandish exercises in perversity and degradation. I've seen Twin Peaks used as a point of reference in more than one review of Gozu and while there is a certain validity to this comparison, I think that Lynch and Miike's thematic obsessions are not as finely attuned as some believe them to be. Gozu, for instance, explores the same human terrain as many of Miike's previous films; namely love, dislocation, repression and loss. However, while these elements are all certainly present in much of Lynch's work in broad sense, it is the minutiae that separates these two wonderful filmmakers. In that sense, Twin Peaks and Gozu share a cursory, stylistic commonality and very little else.

I must make mention, briefly, of Gozu's final twenty minutes, which are amongst the most repulsive, brilliant and transcendental of Miike's entire career. By taking the base elements of the story, boiling them down into pure metaphor and then spilling that metaphor out across the screen in a painful, and beautiful, approximation of reality, Miike seals his place, in my eyes, as one of the bravest, and most misunderstood, filmmakers working today. Without the final twenty minutes, Gozu would still have come highly recommended. With them, however, Gozu becomes something akin to a genuine conceptual masterpiece.
Video
Let's get the bad out of the way first. As a devoted Miike fan, it comes as no surprise when a film of his hits DVD with a less than stellar transfer. I'm sure that any number of factors can contribute to this, from budgetary constraints and poor film stock to simply haphazard mastering. Hence, Gozu exhibits everything from print damage to compression artefacts, right through to the expected lack of vibrancy in the colours and weak, shockingly pixelated blacks. However, the anamorphic enhancement is a welcome addition and the removable English subtitles are well-placed and intelligent translations from the original Japanese.
Audio
The audio fares much, much better than the visuals. Crisp, clean and rich, the original Japanese soundtrack can't really be faulted at all.
Extra Features
This is the area in which this Pathfinder disc really shines. First up is an audio commentary with film critics Andy Klein and Wade Major. This is a moderately informative listen without being in any way essential to the appreciation of the film as a whole. However, I'm pretty sure that, at one point, they do mistake prolific Japanese comedian Kanpei Hazama for Takahi Miike performing an Hitchcockian cameo, so do take their "expertise" with a pinch of salt. Also on the disc are three interviews with Miike, the first two conducted by the critics who provide the commentary. The third, and most enjoyable, interview is a round table discussion between Takashi Miike, Eli Roth and Guillermo Del Toro. Next up we have a making of featurette which is very Japanese (you'll know what I mean when you see it), a stills gallery, US and Japanese trailers for the film, cast and crew biographies, the option of hearing Gozu's theme song in its entirety and an esssay on the film by author Tom Mes.
The Verdict
It may have taken a few days for Gozu's impact to truly resonate, but I have found that, like The Bird People In China before it, I have been thinking about this film all week. It is a great film though and through, although it may be too laden with metaphor to appeal to those with only a passing interest in Miike and his work. While I was tempted to deduct an entire star due to the depressingly mediocre state of the transfer (as I did with The Bird People In China) I think that the extras package is worthy enough to warrant a purchase until (fingers crossed) a definitive edition of Gozu is one day unleashed.
Movie Score
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