The insanely prolific Japanese director Takashi Miike has a loyal cult following, but it's tempting to suggest they all need therapy — a charge one might level at Miike if he wasn't so busy unleashing his bent psyche in a string of films that make David Lynch look like Garry Marshall.
For Miike, nothing is too extreme, no perversity off limits. With 61 films to his credit since 1991, he's that most curious of creatures, a hack auteur. Serious books have been written about his work, and, in a 1998 article, Time magazine named him one of the top 10 non-Hollywood directors.
Try as I might, I can't jump on the Miike bandwagon. Viewing several of his best-known films hardly qualifies me as an expert, but I've seen enough to know that flashes of brilliance don't compensate for endless hours of inept storytelling, repulsive misogyny and the violent shock-mongering of a manic stylist suffering from severely arrested development.
I'll probably get hate mail from Miike fans, but 2003's "Gozu" is an undisciplined mess. Billed as a "yakuza horror comedy," it was a straight-to-video release in Japan (like many of Miike's films) and delivers the kind of demented shocks that Miike built his career on: in this case a white Chihuahua smashed against a plate-glass window; a man with a cow's head (the demon of the film's title); a man electrocuted by a soup ladle; and a climactic five-minute sequence in which a young woman gives agonizing birth to a full-sized man. It's disgusting in or out of context, amusing only to those on Miike's twisted wavelength.
For what it's worth, the plot involves a yakuza soldier (Hideki Sone) who's ordered to kill his mentor, then loses the body and embarks on a bizarre quest to retrieve it. "Gozu" must be seen to be believed, but the effort goes largely unrewarded. Deeper immersion in Japanese culture and cinema would surely enhance appreciation of Miike's supernatural story, but you'll still get empty calories. Partly inspired by Lynch's "Lost Highway" and "Mulholland Drive," "Gozu" trades Lynch's nightmare logic for exasperating incoherence.
Jeff Shannon: email@example.com