Splatter-Happy Takashi Miike on Public Baths and Private Jokes


“I really wanted purity and innocence,” Takashi Miike says of Gozu‘s virginal protagonist, whose id leaks might be responsible for the film’s slurping cow god, gender switching, and (for the second time in Miike’s career) hyper-lactating woman. “I just wanted him to react as a child would amid all the craziness. He regresses to almost zero. Once he reaches zero, all of his secret dreams come true.”

Partisans of the notorious, splatterific Ichi the Killer might very well have reached zero, wet-dreamed in their collective psyche, and hatched Gozu—a sex-horror, neo-noir, reincarnation, yakuza, coming-of-age sci-fi flick—to reunite Miike with Ichi scripter Sakichi Sato (acting here in drag, and last seen stateside in a Kill Bill cameo). A straight-to-video title that eventually screened at Cannes, Gozu starts off on yakuza turf: A rookie assigned to gun down his gone-apeshit elder “brother” flubs the assignment, then kills him in a car accident anyway, only to lose the body. His attempts at retrieval plunge him (and the viewer) further into places that Miike expert Tom Mes has dubbed “almost Lynchian realms of post-logic.”

Only Miike should embellish some of what happens next. For instance, why has breast milk seeped into two Miike flicks? “The simple reason? Sato saw it previously in Visitor Q and liked it.” And the faraway sound—”pasu, pasu, pasu”—that lingers as Minami is about to “lose it”? “As a child, a boy can still be taken inside the women’s section of the public baths. One of my friends was in one end, echoing the name of an anime character. This private thing only makes sense to me.”

He adjusts his silvered shades. “People I meet in the real world make me wonder all the time. This interview right at this moment is as surreal as anything I’ve experienced.” Really? For a director whose CV is spattered with bisected women, needles lovingly inserted into eyes, cocaine toothpaste, and a self-punning star turn-testing a mic inside someone’s rectum, this is akin to a hosanna.