Two recruits are accepted into a crack army unit, stationed at Kyoto in 1865, after intensive single combat trials. Kano is 18 and looks like a girl. Tashiro is older and on the first night in the dorm makes a pass at the boy.

Other than reinforcing the truism that men need sex, as women need love, what else is Gohatto dealing with? Not much. Any public school headmaster will tell you that idle boys experiment in the trouser department, which explains compulsory sport, not that it quells passion.

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These warriors hang about, waiting for a half pissed soldier from another unit to poke fun at them so that they can cut him up with their evil looking swords. Otherwise, they lust after Kano and some even get lucky, which causes jealousy and murder.

The officers discuss the problem and make banal statements ("A samurai can be undone by the love of men"), although take a liberal view of the practice. Rumour has it that at least two are smitten, but due to their disciplined approach to behavior, with or without a weapon, feelings remain repressed.

Nagisa Oshima's reputation is based on the scandalous Ai No Corrida, which has been called a masterpiece of sexual cinema, made 25 years ago. He went on to direct Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, amongst other lesser works. Gohatto is neither scandalous, nor inspiring. The character of Kano is never explored, neither are his motives. Even the fight sequences pale against Kurosawa's legacy of samurai movies. The film is dark, since most of it was shot at night, and devoid of menace.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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A period tale of Samarai warriors and their obsessions with honour, love and death.
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Keith Hennessey Brown **1/2

Director: Nagisa Oshima

Writer: Nagisa Oshima

Starring: Takashi Kitano, Ryuhei Matsuda, Shinji Takeda, Tadanobu Asano and Koji Matoba

Year: 1999

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Japan


EIFF 2000
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