The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part
The Walking Dead
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All Critics (21)
| Top Critics (3)
| Fresh (15)
| Rotten (6)
| DVD (4)
A spare and cruel drama about sex and violence within the ranks of the samurai.
Taboo is not an entirely successful film, but it isn't boring.
A film that provocatively entwines the violent world of samurai with forbidden eroticism ends up so bloodless (in a figurative sense).
A Gay Samurai Murder Mystery that's lacking in all three categories
The best darned gay samurai murder-mystery I have ever seen.
...much of the film revolves around a guessing game about the ambiguous young samurai
Though the 68 year-old director suffered a stroke a few years ago, he has triumphantly returned with one of the greatest Japanese films in years, directed from the seat of his wheelchair.
A brilliantly stylized period piece set in Kyoto.
Eventually, the fate-driven plot takes hold of you and becomes compelling.
Presumably the final film from acclaimed director Nagisa Oshima, "Taboo" is an underwhelming farewell. Set in 1865 Kyoto at the close of Japan's shogun era, the story focuses on a vulnerable samurai militia that has recruited two new members. Tashiro (initially) seems like the typical breed, but androgynous Kano is unusual. He is only 18, and has soft features and long hair. He prefers white robes instead of black. And he stirs repressed homosexual desire in virtually every man he meets. A secret love develops between Tashiro and Kano, though the foundation of this bond is weakly portrayed. Kano also accepts the homely advances of Yuzawa, a second soldier, while others view these couplings with a uneasy mix of jealousy and disapproval. This is supposed to be a fearsome group of warriors, after all.
Some unintended chuckles result as these mighty swordsmen pull awkward confessions from each other (lots of poorly translated talk about men who "lean that way"), and the story -- scripted by Oshima himself, based on two Ryotaro Shiba novellas -- just isn't too compelling. There's a thin subplot about Kano accidentally insulting an older samurai by mistaking him for a monk, and the pair taking a subsequent face-saving mission against a rival troop. But the tale inevitably returns to the deviant longings that possess Kano and his dojo peers.
There is one brief, non-explicit sex scene, but the film is otherwise chaste. Not even a kiss or a nipple. The swordplay is satisfying though unspectacular, and one bloody beheading adds a splash of gore.
"Taboo" lacks the radical editing and narrative jumps of Oshima's early films, and it has little visual style beyond a bluish color scheme and a climactic dose of atmospheric fog. Some scenes clumsily transition with wipes, and the peculiar use of title cards is outdated. Often, the unsubtle captions add more explanation than is needed. Ryuichi Sakamoto (who also worked on "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence") contributes a fine score, however.
The title of the film may be misleading since it's more about samurai allowing petty sexual desire to interfere with discipline and order. Quietly, the film recreates the period with such detail. It looks fantastic, and the characters come to life with real drama and humor and is the best darned gay samurai murder-mystery I have ever seen (actually, the only one). The story concerns the problems created when a beautiful, androgynous samurai played by Ryuhei Matsuda joins up. He and his fellow inductee, Tadanobu Asano (Ichi The Killer, Mongol), are the best fighters out of a crop of students, and they are chosen for full membership.
Besides 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 might give you something to mull over, and is an aesthetically Japanese experience as you're likely to find anywhere. You really can't go wrong with Beat Takeshi and Tadanobu Asano again.
Oshima is back with, to my knowledge, the only gay samurai film. Beautiful, methodically paced and filled with interesting moments, it's easy to see you're in the hands of a master filmmaker. A great film.
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