Gozu ★★★★★

Gozu is a film obsessed with the excretions of life. The lubrication that serves as the recently-circumcised Minami’s slide into the bowels of hell include the salivary, the bloody, the seminal, the vaginal. As he desperately attempts to search the city outskirts for his missing Yakuza ‘Brother,’ Minami is asked early in the film a riddle — “What takes, but also passes?” He’s given thirty seconds, but the countdown stutters and skips and it’s more like twenty. Regardless, much like Oedipus who’s able to solve the Sphinx’s riddle (what crawls upon four legs in the morning, two in legs in the afternoon, and three in the evening?), Minami is able to answer correctly. For Oedipus, it is man. For Minami, it is time. Oedipus understands man, but is unable to understand himself and his own nature before it’s too late. Likewise, Minami understands time, but is unable to understand his own place in time within the surreality of Gozu. In order to act, one requires space, and in order to have space, one must also have time. But Minami finds himself lodged within a world where neither space nor time cohere properly. He descends into a nightmare where the harder he tries to search for his missing Brother, Ozaki, the stranger things become.

Breast milk leaks from the ceiling of the hotel. The manager whips a seance medium in the name of servitude. Minami’s guide, a disfigured Virgil to Minami’s Dante, whose face resembles an off-balance, skin-cracked taijitu, sacrifices yin and yang for fear and apathy. The shamanism of androgyny lurks in every corner as dead male waiters serve coffee in brassieres and female hostesses open a smile upon a masculine jaw. It’s only after Minami’s encounter with the titular ox-headed guardian of the underworld that his Brother finally resurfaces in feminine form. The only guardian of the succubus’ underworld are her knees and, as this woman who claims to be Ozaki spreads them, Minami is faced with the darkest revelation. Unsure of whether in those seductive loins he will find an externalized phallus or a vaginal womb-tomb, he disturbingly discovers both. The inversion of myth dictates an apocalypse. Instead of killing his Brother, like Cain, Minami takes his Brother sexually and ends up no different than his Yakuza boss, the sort of man who can only think clearly when a soup ladle is wedged against his prostate. The distinctions between male and female disappear upon this apocalypse. Much emphasis is placed upon Minami’s recent circumcision — the menstruation of man — and it’s only when he’s finally fallen into temptation, after his slow journey through hell, that the womb closes on him to reveal itself a sick joke, or fantasy. We may recall Ozaki’s words at the beginning of the film: “Everything I’m about to tell you is a joke. Don’t take it seriously.” It’s hard not to take the joke seriously, though, when it’s a dead man’s hand that emerges from the uterine mystery of life. Miike laughs, but we shiver. 

Thanks to Bryant Tyler for recommending I revisit Gozu again to review it. My inaugural Secret Mitch was a slimy, disturbing success!

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