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3.9 out of 5 stars
Gozu [DVD] [2003]
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 1 February 2006
Ah, Miike, he never lets us down. Just when you've become accustomed to 'Gozu', accepted its tangential, Lynchian dynamics, its nostalgical, instamatic washed-out visuals, its gold and silver lamé quirkiness -- Miike hits you with a super low blow right at the end, leaving you reeling and wanting to watch the whole thing again, knowing it will seem completely different second time around.For most of its length, though, 'Gozu' is Miike-Lite: curiously innocent and affable yakuzas, bizarre supporting characters (a trio of transvestite coffee shop owners, a prodigiously-lactacting middle-aged hoteliere, and the drooling bovine stranger of the title -- 'Gozu' = 'cow-head'), occasional and oddly bloodless acts of Young Ones-style violence. There's some delicious comic acting and the aforementioned photography -- everything looks stained with nicotine, or maybe urine -- produces some stunning urban landscapes. And then, just when you thought this was Miike on autopilot'But I won't spoil it. This is as good a place as any to start with the great man's work, and though initially more palatable than many of his films, like all the best ones it takes some time to digest.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 27 May 2005
I am now slowly building a collection of Miike films, audition, visitor q, Ichi the killer, MPD Psycho each I enjoy more than the last. Then I get Gozu. Wow! each film I see just seems to get better an intriguing plot line. It may seem slow but I just found the pace kept me hanging on for the next obscure character object placement or plot-twist. In one of the other reviews a comment is made about other Miike films have some social commentary on Japan and this film does not. Not true. This film more so than some others. The commentary is there you just need to be patient and look for it. The humour when there is hilarious, with the Yakuza attack dog. one of the funniest things I ever saw. It can be heavy going. but wholesomely rewarding. I cant wait to show my girlfriend the end sequence it will put her off child birth for life %^). Overall a great Miike twisted plot line too much to explain in a tiny review, just watch it. (I watched the unrated version but I dont think there are any cuts on the UK version anyway)
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 3 February 2007
It is quite possible that films by Takashi Miike are an acquired taste but for many, it is quite easy to love his bizarre, surreal worlds. Gozu is a typical Miike film and without a doubt THE most brilliantly obscure film I've ever watched.

It starts quite funny with talk of the Yakuza attack dog but it's the kind of black humour that has you laughing and also quite disturbed. I could not recommend this film to the feint of heart although it is not all blood and guts like, say, Ichi the Killer. The story is quite simplistic and in fact for the most part completely absent, the film's deranged and incredibly unsettling events leave the plot so far behind it becomes obsolete. This does not affect the overall quality of the film nor does it begin to feel loose or pointless. The film traps you in an adventure and lures you into a world that both shocks you and makes you insanely interested. Never before have I been able to describe watching a film as: "an experience" but that is exactly what Gozu was for me.

I do feel however that Gozu feels less like a feature film. It doesn't have the feel of a large, dramatic project and its low budget does leave it feeling ever so slightly less professional than Miike's other works like `Audition' or `Ichi the Killer'. This presents the film with a feeling much more, for lack of better words: `personal' than others, which suits Gozu just fine. The film moves quite slowly with little intense action, bar the heart-stopping insane events dotted throughout, and thus Gozu is quite hard to watch twice. I've sat through Gozu two times and admit that I did not find it nearly as enthralling or mesmerising as I'd of hoped the second time, knowing what's round the corner leaves Gozu with nothing which is why I haven't pin-pointed any-one thing that happens in the film. First time through though some of the scenes leave burning impressions on your mind that stick with you for days at least and at the end of the film I was literally left with my jaw gaping open. This is not a 'feel-good' film and certainly does not leave you feeling positive or cheerful; however, it does leave you thinking: 'Wow'.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 13 January 2008
Without wanting to spoil it for you, the basic plot of this film can be transcribed in a single sentence, and it goes a little something like this (skip ahead if you must); a Yakuza henchman struggles with his latent homosexuality, guilt and desire, when he is required by his boss to "dispose" of his mentally unstable brother in arms; a best-friend and mentor-like figure that he is, quite naturally, deeply attracted to. That's the plot stripped down to it's purest of purest forms.

Now, the reason why such a description won't spoil the film for you is simply because Miike, as a director, takes the story in so many continually contrasting and self-consciously abstract directions that eventually, we, as an audience, cannot even BEGIN to comprehend any semblance of the original plot from the seemingly endless barrage of repeatedly warped visions, uncomfortable scenarios and bursts of disarming black comedy. Many viewers have drawn parallels with the work of David Lynch, which is understandable, but for me misses the mark slightly. If anything the film seems almost like Miike channelling the spirit of his friend and contemporary Shinya Tsukamoto, whilst further referencing the desolate freak show of Terry Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the detached poetry and stranger in a strange land mentality of the off-beat Jim Jarmusch-directed western Dead Man, along with the vivid distortions, drug-fuelled hallucinations and fevered homoerotic psychobabble of David Croneberg's adaptation of Burroughs' Naked Lunch.

If you must draw comparisons to Lynch, then I suppose Wild at Heart - with it's desolate landscapes, jarring shifts from parody to horror, and the freewheeling structure of the narrative - and perhaps even Mulholland Drive - with it's homosexual love story and continual shifts in mood and tone - are the obvious choices. The reason I usually try to avoid the Lynch comparisons when recommending this film to my friends and family is simply because I feel it sets up unfair expectations and comparisons that should never really be there when first approaching a work by Miike Takeshi. Regardless, the film will most probably be enjoyed by the kind of viewers familiar with directors like Lynch, Cronenberg, Gilliam and Tsukamoto; although the obvious audience will always be the Miike die-hards. Those of us who have endured and enjoyed the bizarre visions of films like Audition, Ichi the Killer, The Happiness of the Katakuris, Zebraman and Dead or Alive parts, 1 to 3.

With Gozu, Miike takes his personal style as far out as he possibly can; creating a dark and distorted Japanese underworld that is both labyrinthine and claustrophobic; brimming with Buddhist symbolism, bizarre caricatures and a continual hum of aural, industrial-heavy ambience. The whole thing is further heightened by the glowing yellow sepia tones of the cinematography, merging with the occasional shards of red and blue lighting, the lingering shadows around the edges of the frame and the often distancing and exaggerated camera angles and choices of location. With these factors in place, it would be easy to categorise Gozu as a horror film; however, this simply isn't the case. As with many of Miike's films, Gozu follows no singular genre or style; moving freely between the realms of an absurdist comedy, a knock-about buddy-picture, a gritty Yakuza-thriller, a romance and a psychological horror story, seemingly simultaneously.

It obviously won't be a film for everyone. Like I said, some familiarity with Miike's style will be required beforehand. Even then, multiple viewing will be needed for the audience to fully digest the film's central message and layers of potential interpretation. It's definitely worth it though, especially for those of us who feel the need to track down the seven or eight films that Miike directs per-year; with Gozu taking the surreal horror and ambient farce of films like Ichi the Killer and Visitor Q to the next potential level. A remarkable film to watch, especially at three o' clock in the morning.
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on 26 August 2013
Much like Audition, Gozu is another Takashi Miike slow burner, that ostensibly begins life on a quite different path to the one it eventually follows. To be any more explicit would be to spoil much of the film, and as it is a film in which the events lend much weight to the audience satisfaction, it would be cruel to say much more than to just stick with it despite its pedestrian quality. If you're of a patient temperament, the gradual mysteries of the film will unravel quite satisfyingly and disturbingly.

The tension and intrigue builds nicely throughout, aided by an atmospheric and very subtle score, which lends a certain unease to the film, and is less a typical musical score and more an amalgamation of almost imperceptible drones and uneasy tones that help unsettle the viewer without being overtly obvious. Alongside this, are the perhaps more obviously disconcerting characters that shadow the central protagonist in the search for his yakuza brother. Their bewildering personalities, dialogue, and distinctly local (very much in The League Of Gentlemen sense of the word) habits, underpin much of the strangeness and unease that builds to the denouement. Their behaviour is ultimately summarised by their very own semi-frequent statement of "you're not from Nagoya are you?", which although it evokes an almost horror cliché or spoof, is actually delivered well and effectively underlines the oddness of these characters.

As our protagonist battles through his own anxieties and comes to the completion of his journey, there are some pleasantly shocking and disturbing moments of a quite unique nature that are simultaneously repulsive and amusing (in a hysterical sense). The body horror moments are akin to the plastic reality of Cronenberg at his best in work like Videodrome and Shivers, and as a result they really aren't for the squeamish or faint hearted.

This is ultimately surreal and disturbing, not in a manner like David Lynch which can often be too arch and alienating without reason, this is surreal and disturbing in a truly satisfying and at times humorously shocking way. Although well accomplished, with some great horrific moments and some customary Miike weirdness to boot, this isn't perhaps as fulfilling as other films in his repertoire (Audition for me being the high water mark of this type), perhaps as a result of the films rather slow pace. While I'm well prepared to put in the effort as it were, this might not be the same for all viewers. For me though, it was worth waiting for the gruesome weirdness to unfold.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
This is a film that you need to watch a few times to understand it. It's basically like a Japanese David Lynch film if not more confusing! It can be rather dull at the beginning but believe me, it builds up!! There are points of comedy and there is points where your jaw will drop and you just think "WHAT?!!?!?!?!" This is a film you should watch when you have a free evening as you can just sit and get lost in it. Hope this was useful =o)
(You wont be able to look at ladels the same way ever again!!!)
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 14 September 2007
Without wanting to spoil it for you, the basic plot of this film can be transcribed in a single sentence, and it goes a little something like this (skip ahead if you must); a Yakuza henchman struggles with his latent homosexuality, guilt and desire, when he is required by his boss to "dispose" of his mentally unstable brother in arms; a best-friend and mentor-like figure that he is, quite naturally, deeply attracted to. That's the plot stripped down to it's purest of purest forms.

Now, the reason why such a description won't spoil the film for you is simply because Miike, as a director, takes the story in so many continually contrasting and self-consciously abstract directions that eventually, we, as an audience, cannot even BEGIN to comprehend any semblance of the original plot from the seemingly endless barrage of repeatedly warped visions, uncomfortable scenarios and bursts of disarming black comedy. Many viewers have drawn parallels with the work of David Lynch, which is understandable, but for me misses the mark slightly. If anything the film seems almost like Miike channelling the spirit of his friend and contemporary Shinya Tsukamoto, whilst further referencing the desolate freak show of Terry Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the detached poetry and stranger in a strange land mentality of the off-beat Jim Jarmusch-directed western Dead Man, along with the vivid distortions, drug-fuelled hallucinations and fevered homoerotic psychobabble of David Croneberg's adaptation of Burroughs' Naked Lunch.

If you must draw comparisons to Lynch, then I suppose Wild at Heart - with it's desolate landscapes, jarring shifts from parody to horror, and the freewheeling structure of the narrative - and perhaps even Mulholland Drive - with it's homosexual love story and continual shifts in mood and tone - are the obvious choices. The reason I usually try to avoid the Lynch comparisons when recommending this film to my friends and family is simply because I feel it sets up unfair expectations and comparisons that should never really be there when first approaching a work by Miike Takeshi.

Regardless, the film will most probably be enjoyed by the kind of viewers familiar with directors like Lynch, Cronenberg, Gilliam and Tsukamoto; although the obvious audience will always be the Miike die-hards. Those of us who have endured and enjoyed the bizarre visions of films like Audition, Ichi the Killer, The Happiness of the Katakuris, Zebraman and Dead or Alive parts, 1 to 3.

With Gozu, Miike takes his personal style as far out as he possibly can; creating a dark and distorted Japanese underworld that is both labyrinthine and claustrophobic; brimming with Buddhist symbolism, bizarre caricatures and a continual hum of aural, industrial-heavy ambience. The whole thing is further heightened by the glowing yellow sepia tones of the cinematography, merging with the occasional shards of red and blue lighting, the lingering shadows around the edges of the frame and the often distancing and exaggerated camera angles and choices of location. With these factors in place, it would be easy to categorise Gozu as a horror film; however, this simply isn't the case. As with many of Miike's films, Gozu follows no singular genre or style; moving freely between the realms of an absurdist comedy, a knock-about buddy-picture, a gritty Yakuza-thriller, a romance and a psychological horror story, seemingly simultaneously.

It obviously won't be a film for everyone. Like I said, some familiarity with Miike's style will be required beforehand. Even then, multiple viewing will be needed for the audience to fully digest the film's central message and layers of potential interpretation. It's definitely worth it though, especially for those of us who feel the need to track down the seven or eight films that Miike directs per-year; with Gozu taking the surreal horror and ambient farce of films like Ichi the Killer and Visitor Q to the next potential level. A remarkable film to watch, especially at three o' clock in the morning.
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on 20 November 2013
Keeps you glued to the screen not only for the action but also the great soundtrack - all so weird but well worth the watch.
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 4 October 2004
Being a fan of Takashi Miike films i couldn't wait to see this and i was not disapointed.
This is, quite simply, a master class in surrealism. What starts out as a normal Japanese yakuza film takes a sharp turn into what i can only describe as madness. From Yakuza Attack Dogs to a cow headed man to an utterly insane birth sequence this film has got it all!!
If you like your films weird then this is for you.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
What an odd film. What a very, very odd film. It's not often I'm lost for words, but this time...well... it... I...

Gozu is possibly - no sorry - definitely one of the most bizarre films I've ever seen. I'm still not sure what happened. I feel like I've taken a blow to the head. I feel like someone spiked my drink with Rohypnol and I'm just coming round. Things are still a bit foggy; hazy; and I'm struggling to make sense of it all.

If women giving birth to full-grown men, human bodies with cows heads, women bottling their breast milk for their hotel guests, gangsters, and men who get off on shoving ladles up their behinds is your thing, then go for it - because let's face it, I don't think you're going to find another film anywhere that caters to your tastes. Gozu is it for you buddy.

On the whole I found the film a bit too surreal for me. Surreal I can deal with. But I still like a story I can follow and make sense of. For film fanatics and hardcore Mike Takashi fans only.

On the plus side - I did love the title sound track.

If you found this review helpful please give it the thumbs up.
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