Monday, August 16, 2004


* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 15 August 2004 at Landmark Kendall Square #3 (first-run)

Wow. A Takashi Miike movie in a multiplex, albeit a boutique multiplex. For those who have not yet experienced his work, Takashi Miike brings to mind some bizarre experiment in genetic engineering where the DNA of Takeshi Kitano, Quentin Tarantino and David Cronenberg was mixed, too-quickly grown to adulthood, and let loose on an entertainment industry with no MPAA to hold him back and a mandate to crank out an average of five movies a year, for theaters, television, and video.

So, even though I'm recommending Gozu, remember the director. He makes crazy, violent, disgusting (and often sickly funny) movies, and he starts early here. If what happens to the dog in the first five minutes makes you want to leave, then by all means, leave. Pull out your cell phone and act like there's a family emergency; maybe you'll get your money back. Because by the time the movie is over, you'll see some even weirder shit. You won't even be able to eat corn flakes the next morning, because it would involve spoons and milk.

At first, young yakuza Minami thinks that it's just his mentor Ozaki who is crazy - he was, after all, responsible for that terrible bit of animal cruelty (really, I don't approve) that opened the film, claiming that a little Peke was in fact a vicious "yakuza attack dog". But, someone being that nuts is a danger to the gang, so Minami is tasked with bringing his "Brother" north to a body dump and eliminating him. As Minami and Ozaki approach the dump, though, it soon becomes clear that it's not just Ozaki who's crazy - it's the whole world.

Not just people, although almost everyone around Minami (Hideki Sone, the sane center of the movie) acts in a peculiar fashion. Roads just run straight into rivers, minotaurs appear during the night, and - in what provides most of the plot that pushes Minami to investigate the surreal world around him - a corpse apparently walks off while he's using the toilet, forcing him to find it. And when he does, things get really strange.

The middle portion of the movie moves somewhat slowly, as Miike and screenwriter Sakichi Sato throw one bizarre situation after another at Minami (and the audience). I can't say I really understand what the point of a lot of this section was about. The rest of the movie follows a sort of strange logic - well, not logic, but there's a sort of story through-line which works if you grant the filmmakers a gigantic unexplained impossible element - but the middle is a sort of surreal padding, a detour to put some space between the start and end of the story.

But, then, making sense isn't what this movie is about. After all, just as the movie finishes perhaps its most grotesque scene, and I really think I get how it works, it shifts gears for a completely incongruous epilogue that, though it features the same actors, is so different in tone and look as to appear to be taken from another movie.

But that's okay. This is, after all, a horror movie, at least in part, and the horror comes from Minami's interaction with an unknown and possibly unknowable world outside his experience. For things to suddenly make sense at the end would be something of a cop-out, even if making peace with that strangeness isn't.

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