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With: Hideki Sone, Sho Aikawa, Kimika Yoshino, Shohei Hino, Keiko Tomita, Harumi Sone, Renji Ishibashi, Ken'ichi Endo, Masaya Kato, Tamio Kawachi
Written by: Sakichi Sato
Directed by: Takashi Miike
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: Japanese with English subtitles
Running Time: 129
Date: 05/17/2003

Gozu (2004)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Milk Man

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The extraordinarily prolific and imaginative Takashi Miike continues to debunk his reputation as a maker of cheap, violent action and horror films with Gozu, a film more in the tradition of his bizarre 2002 musical, The Happiness of the Katakuris. He takes great delight in introducing what seems like a normal action movie or a horror movie, then suddenly twisting it into something new. Rather than feeling betrayed, though, it's almost as if he has lifted a veil.

Gozu starts almost like a normal movie: a driver named Minami (Hideki Sone) is out with his yakuza boss, his "aniki," (brother) Ozaki (Sho Aikawa). Ozaki has been slowly losing his marbles, believing he sees secret yakuza-targeting killing machines everywhere. To protect an innocent woman, Minami accidentally kills Ozaki. While trying to figure out what to do with the corpse, then trying to find a phone that works, Ozaki's corpse disappears.

Minami begins looking for the corpse with the help of a strange man whose face is half-painted white. Other, increasingly bizarre characters come into the mix, and the story gets weirder and weirder. Before long, we realize that this is not a movie about a missing mobster at all. I'm not sure what it really is about, but it's one hell of a ride.

Miike is as close as anyone to the late, great Rainer Werner Fassbinder, working feverishly quickly and inserting all his own personal demons and ideas into every film, no matter how potentially depressing or embarrassing. Tidbits such as a woman obsessed with her own lactating breasts and a demon cow with the body of a man -- the "gozu" of the title -- make you wonder just what goes through Miike's brain on a daily basis.

At the same time, the director boasts an unerring eye for composition and rhythm and is capable of great speed (as in Dead or Alive) or hushed stillness (as in Audition) � sometimes at the same time. Any film of his is worth seeing, but Gozu is as disturbing and off-putting as it is stunning, fascinating and funny. In other words, take this as both a recommendation and a warning.

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