Gozu
Takashi Miike

A gorefest in Miike’s traditional style, with a final reel of weirdness that exceeds itself…. (Audition was no rehearsal itself). Is there something about the physicality and the body obsessions that marks Japanese freak shows? As if the sovereignty of identity in that culture were tested physically. A history in self control perhaps? A special relationship between individual and community that minimizes the former? A misrecognition of corporeality, a culture that disciplines bodies (eating culture, toilet culture, warrior culture) and seeks self mastery through physical self-control? Because their freak films are so often about destroying bodies, cutting bodies, mutilating, transforming, undoing, and otherwise violating bodies that they carry their own particular style…..

Take a british freak film (e.g Peter Greenaway) and you have a narrative that could have been written by a politician. There, individuals are broken, divided, violated by the coldness of social isoluation, the intensity of self-doubt that racks a failed adult, the crushing pressure of gang membership (many British films are ensemble films because it is in the ensemble that the British proclivity for etiquette and civility is brought into play, and is thus up for play). Recent British films in which individuals are indeed the focus (Morvern Callar comes to mind, but there are many about children, mostly boys, growing up) thematize the struggles of self and society by capturing the isolation of any individual not in conformity with his or her situation and context. A woman wanders off to Spain (Morvern Callar), a boy becomes a dancer (Billy Elliot), a man considers the emptiness of his life (Nil by Mouth), a genius proselytizes to a world gone deaf (Naked)…. individuals trying to find real contact where society only supports appropriate contact.

Is there something here? Are there “cultural” or national idioms that in this day and age–when film is our primary art, and w/ the slow disappearance of reading, our primary entertainment–that can tell us about the struggles of individuals in capitalized societies around the world?