Gohatto Screen 12 articles

Gohatto

1999

Gohatto Poster
  • An elegant and formally gorgeous look at sexual fluidity, marred only by a choppy structure and occasional lulls in storytelling. Passive and weirdly enigmatic, Matsuda's captivating cipher is countered by Kitano's trademark severity as the unit's captain, which makes his own helpless pangs of attraction all the more powerful... Oshima picks up his career-long fascination with the perverse and confirms his ability to keep an audience feeling off-balance and distinctly uncomfortable.

  • Oshima has returned after a 15-year silence with a film that distills his mastery into exquisite, mesmerizing classicism and graceful economy... In this vision of all-male society, as well as in its stunning beauty, absolute poise, and precise choreography, Oshima's film recalls nothing so much as a Marxist Beau Travail.

  • It could be considered an event within an event. Nagisa Oshima is Japan's greatest living filmmaker, and his first theatrical feature in 14 years is an action film at once baroque and austere, hypnotic and opaque—a samurai drama punctuated by thwacking kendo matches in which the romantic swordsmen keep falling in love... with each other... Gohatto is an appropriately fatalistic, drolly deadpan, and elegantly precise restatement of the 68-year-old filmmaker's career-long concerns.

  • The film tells a reasonably straightforward story, but tells it in a highly stylized, uncanny way, mixing comedy and deeply unsettling drama in almost every scene... The true center of Gohatto is Hijikata, the captain who is the most perceptive and sensitive of the samurai and whose struggle against Kano’s power is treated both more seriously and less explicitly than that of the other samurai.

  • One of the biggest surprises of Taboo is that much of it registers as a multifaceted tribute to Mizoguchi... A chamber piece abetted by one of Ryuichi Sakamoto's loveliest scores as it gradually drifts from narrative into a labyrinthine reverie, Taboo distills a kind of troubled poetry that ultimately asks if beauty is tied to evil and if desire is connected to death.

  • Delicious in design and delirious with detail, Taboo is set in 1865 and was photographed in and around ancient temples in Kyoto, but Oshima gives its ancient atmosphere a decidedly modern spin. Everything in the film – from Ryuichi Sakamoto's moody tick-tock score to the casting of hipsters both fresh and furrowed – surges with up-to-the-moment sophistication, and nothing does more so than its elusive storytelling.

  • Oshima is too coolly detached for pomp and high dudgeon. The closest the film comes to gratuitous innuendo is courtesy of the craning, soft- porn evocations in Ryuichi Sakamoto's score. Otherwise "Taboo" is a further, captivating extension of Oshima's marriage of the oblique and the erotic.

  • ...Hijikata obtusely wonders if reading such stuff might signify that Okita is of dubious persuasion, but Okita quickly puts him straight: "I hate this kind of people - but I love beautiful stories." The clear hint is that Okita, a champion of loyalty, has at the very least been both an observer and a manipulator behind the Kano affair. We might also note that Oshima, on the other hand, hates nobody and, wonderfully served by cast and camera, loves the reticence of a story immaculately told.

  • Oshima's first fiction film in fourteen years seems at first glance to be another taboo-breaker (as its title suggests) but, in its gorgeous design and cinematography, actually evokes the golden age of Japanese cinema... A complex drama of lust, honour, and revenge culminates in a final battle between the two new recruits, one very much in love with the unattainable other, evocatively staged in a misty marsh in the style of Mizoguchi.

  • The samurai film is a venerable Japanese genre, and Oshima obeys its codes only to inject this unfamiliar element into its bloodstream – to blow up the tradition from within its gates... Kitano might as well be acting with a mask on: he gives almost nothing away, until his banked emotions flare up in a sudden, startling release in the final scene. The mood of the film fits its meaning: the tone is stately, restrained, but the presence of Kano charges each scene with tension.

  • It's a tantalizing film, deliberately unclear in its meaning, but a hypnotic experience nonetheless.

  • Oshima is unsparing in his depiction of the militia’s bloody exploits (Kano’s first assignment is a beheading, shown in horrific detail) and in his revelation of Kano’s motive for joining up—the desire to kill with impunity. His restrained, elegant images capture life on the edge of death; the warriors’ sparring and training, their rigid discipline and furious bloodlust, come off as the ultimate aphrodisiacs.

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