Samurai? Never seen that before."
above are my words, and probably the words of
countless people upon discovering
"Gohatto" (aka "Taboo"), a
tale of homosexuality within a Samurai training
's Shogun era.
plotting is minimal, so much so that at times you
wonder if something is actually going to happen.
The film boils down to a lot of interpersonal
conflicts within the camp, all centred around
young Samurai Sozaburo Kano (Ryuhei Matsuda), the
object of everyone's desires. The conflicts and
difficulties come out during training and sparring
sessions that exposes the homosexual nature of a
number of the students to stern leader Toshizo
Hijikata (Takeshi Kitano, "Blood
and Bones"), who can choose to intervene
or let the Samurai in question go on with their
"Gohatto" is a film for those with
patience. A lot of patience. It is purposely slow
in terms of storytelling and development, allowing
the characters to unfold gradually in front of our
eyes. This is the case for a lot of Japanese films
(most notably Takashi Miike's "Audition")
and, whilst not necessarily a bad thing, is
certainly enough to turn away a large number of
potential viewers. Even for those with more
patience, "Gohatto" can still be a
little frustrating, if it were not for the fact
that the whole thing is so well acted.
Takeshi Kitano is brilliant as always, his
Shakespearian inspired soliloquy at the end of the
film being a
. Young Ryuhei Matsuda is equally good as the
effeminate and withdrawn
, and convinces with his character's complexity.
The rest of the supporting cast are also up to the
task, in particular Shinji Takeda as Soji Okita,
who is debatably the only actual gay man in the
Where "Gohatto" falls short is that it
fails to fulfil its own premise. Despite my
initial interest in the existence of gay Samurai,
what is shown onscreen is disappointing, with the
film's only gay sex scene being short and
unrealistic. As well, if you're expecting a lot of
lightening-quick swordplay, the kind usually found
in movies about the Samurai, you'll be
disappointed. The film's fights consist of either
sparring in training using wooden swords, or
actual combat that are over in seconds.
ending attempts to leave you with an afterthought
(director Nagisa Oshima clearly wants you to
discuss and interpret his film), yet there is a
difference between leaving you with an
afterthought and leaving you with unanswered
questions. Suffice to say "Gohatto"
leaves you with the latter.
the beautiful scenery and interesting premise,
"Gohatto" is a good example of how the
Japanese like it slow. The film won't change your
life, but it does give you something to mull over,
and is an aesthetically Japanese experience as
you'll likely to find anywhere.