It's hard not to compare Miike's 2000 film "Audition" with "Gozu," as their themes are so similar. More bad-dreamlike than horrific, the latter further delves into the discomfort with and fear of women Miike broached in the earlier film, adding an unsightly maternal wrinkle in the form of Masa (Keiko Tomita), the hotel proprietress who can't stop lactating. The shots of her moaning and squeezing out milk are troubling to say the least. But like "Audition," the most enduring, jaw-droppingly disturbing element comes last. The difficult-to-stomach endless torture finale of "Audition" is notorious for its brutal realism. Miike may never top that, but in "Gozu" he gives it the old college try. Without spoiling anything, let's just say he makes a valiant effort to encapsulate the complicated and contradictory powers of the vagina in a way you will not quickly forget.
"Gozu" is a less mature work than "Audition." Miike's anxious cynicism works better in a simpler context, which becomes more psychologically wrenching. For all its detached, flapping tongues, "Audition" is closer to real life, thus ultimately more terrifying. The overtly cerebral, surreal motifs of "Gozu" distract from Miike's potent--and seriously twisted--analyses of women and sex. Starring Hideki Sone, Sho Aikawa and Kimika Yoshino. Directed by Takashi Miike. Written by Sakichi Sato. Produced by Harumi Sone and Kana Koido. A Pathfinder release. Horror. Japanese-language; subtitled. Unrated. Running time: 129 min