Set during Japan's Shogun era, this film looks at life in a samurai compound where young warriors are trained in swordfighting. A number of interpersonal conflicts are brewing in the training room, all centering around a handsome young samurai named Sozaburo Kano. The school's stern master can choose to intervene, or to let Kano decide his own path.
Nagisa Oshima's work is always visually exquisite. He has that finely honed, generations-old Japanese eye for detail which has served his artistry well over the last 50 years. It reveals itself to be the difference in the world of film that a Monet, Michelangelo, or Van Gogh is to sidewalk chalk drawings.
Decades ago, Oshima set out explore new territories, to leave formula and standard, approved plot progressions behind and delve into the deeper recesses of the human experience. What comes out of that are works of storytelling which require more attention and involvement on the part of the viewer than your typical Michael Bay or Renny Harlin flick. Not that pure escapist entertainment is a bad thing; far from it. But you don't generally come away from one of those features wanting to go sit at a table with your friends, staying up to the wee hours discussing what you've just seen and all the ramifications of each scene. In simpler terms, they don't enrich your intellect! (I think even Bay?s and Harlin?s most ardent fans can agree with me on that part :-) ).
"Gohatto" is the Japanese word meaning "Taboo" in its simplest form, so you know going in your about to see something out of the ordinary. Oshima has long had a fascination with the dichotomies in Japanese culture (and frankly most cultures) between how behavior is proscribed and how the more primal, instinctual urges (mostly sex) always find their way to the surface in spite of those mores. Oshima has also found a fascination in seeing how both Western and Eastern cultures have, at one time or another (or more than one), put strict moral taboos on homosexuality, adultery, and even on prostitution, but these strictures have never eliminated or even slowed down their existence.
"Gohatto" takes us into a world 150 years ago where such things don't exist on the surface but are fully integrated into what is real life just beneath. Whether such subject matter, or exploring Eastern cultures, particularly interests you or not, if you're interested in being challenged by the art that you see, "Gohatto" (like Peter Greenaway's recent "The Pillow Book") is a must-see film.