I have been waiting for months to see Gohatto (Forbidden), a movie by director Nagisa Oshima, who also directed In the Realm of the Senses, which is a beautifully directed, extremely explicit and kinky piece of cinema... a porno with artistic sensibilities!
Oshima's work tends to be either something you love or you hate... not only because of the controversial subject matter he covers, but also because of the rich and deliberate pacing of his films that many Americans would find to be slow. Well, apparently the "expert" reviewer Ken Karns at Camera Theatres saw "Gohatto" at Cannes and hated it... gave it a zero out of four stars.
This, frankly, is hard to fathom... the movie features one of the most visual directors in the world, one of Japan's foremost cinematographers, a soundtrack by Ryuchi Sakamoto, who has done soundtracks for "The Last Emperor"and "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence", extremely detailed and authentic fight and training scenes, and authentically detailed costumes with luscious looking sets, recreating imperial-era Japan. So, why zero stars?
Perhaps it is because it deals with homosexuality. Yes, we're talking about homosexual samurai here... But really, there was far less of a bias against homosexuality in traditional Japanese culture at that time. (Western culture has done a great job at exporting Western prejudices...) We're also talking about a bunch of men removed from the company of women, cloistered in a temple, training, fighting, sweating and whatnot for months at a time... and in walks this guy.
So, what's unexpected here? All I can guess is that somehow the idea was ludicrous to Mr. Karns. He describes the movie as "about a young rural boy who joins up with an elite Ninja team. He's so damn cute that none of the other men can keep their hands off of him..." I'm sorry, but doesn't this sound like someone whose limited point-of-view has already ruled out his ability to appreciate the movie? In actuality, the movie wasn't about "an elite ninja team" but about the Shinsengumi, a real group of swordsmen who protected the imperial city of Kyoto during the mid 1800's. Membership in this group was very limited as you might expect, since they were essentially an imperial guard.
I want to see this! Why should it be so difficult in what is supposed to be one of the most progressive places in the United States? It was nominated for the Golden Palm award at Cannes and was the biggest Japanese release of the last year. 45% of those who rated the movie at IMDB gave the film either a 9 or a 10 rating. It even rates higher than "Realm of the Senses", which is considered to be Oshima's masterpiece. It may not be a film for everyone, but here's a big message for Hollywood. I don't want a film for everyone! Get me some popcorn and show me the damn movie!