Movie Poster
Takashi Miike
Hideki Sone, Sho Aikawa, Kimika Yoshino, Shohei Hino, Keiko Tomita
129 min.


Gozu opens with Sho Aikawa beating the shit out of a tiny dog. Not three minutes in and it's already earned your gate. But then Takashi Miike likes big openings (ahem, Sho Aikawa, later on, learns this the hard way). The beginning of Dead or Alive, for example, with its sped up cross cutting, was almost unbearably frenetic.

"Everything I am about to tell you is a joke," Aikawa says, "don't take it too seriously." Fair enough. He then tells his Yakuza boss that a small dog that two women are fawning over outside is a specially trained Yakuza hit-dog. The rest of his gang watches with stupefied semicomprihension as he twirls it on its leash and slams it into the window. This is the problem. The gang has sent Minami to escort Sho to distant Nagoya to the Yakuza dumping ground and kill him, as he is obviously insane. The insanity is only beginning, however. Sho leaps from the car and tries to shoot an old woman who happens to be driving behind them. Minami eventually knocks him out, which is compounded when, at a sudden stop, Sho smashes into the dashboard. While pulled into a restaurant to find a phone Minami suddenly realizes that Sho is gone. Now he must find him. Now the story takes off. At a funny angle. And blows up, like the Challenger.

Miike is usually a mixed bag. The opening and closing to Dead or Alive are great. The middle is not as fantastic. The prowess on display in the construction of Audition is admirable. The ending is almost unreedemably goofy. Visitor Q has probably the funniest necrophilic scene in the history of cinema. Truth be told, it probably has the three funniest necrophilia scenes. It just drags occasionally when Kenichi Endo isn't screwing some dead chick. Ichi the Killer is kind of silly. But the man makes so many movies (in the neighborhood of six a year for going on ten years; he makes Fassbinder look like a coked out Stanley Kubrick), there's bound to be some that just fly right all the time.

And this is that movie. Bizarre and surreal in a way that you can imagine David Cronenberg sitting at home crying to himself with defeated resignation. It evokes many of the conventions of a standard suspense thriller, while never really striving for suspense. This is a film wearing the disembodied skin, Leatherface-style, of a whole genre. Of many genres. Not so much patches sewn together as shards jabbed into the meat.

Gozu has a more convincing, a more deeply ingrained, nightmare logic than anything David Cronenberg has ever produced, somewhere on a segment connecting Twin Peaks with Eraserhead: akin to being shot in the face, very slowly, only it's funny. He one-ups everyone, even himself: Taking several of his frequent concerns to new heights. If the final scene doesn't leave you happy to be alive, or vomitting into your popcorn, nothing will.

And Biz Markie says: It's birth. Remixed.

Pat Jackson