Rating: 8/10
Year: 2001
Genre: Comedy
Director: Isao Yukisada
Cast: Yosuke Kubozuka, Kou Shibasaki, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Shinobu Otake

Go is not the first film to touch upon the sensitive issue of racial discrimination in Japan. Early in the 60s, renowned master Nagisa Oshima has already directed a film called Death by Hanging, in which he explores the identity crisis of Korean Japanese in a rather radical yet humorous way.

The story of this film is quite different from Death by Hanging, yet it has a similar premise - to explore the identity crisis of Korean in Japan. Sugihara (Yosuke Kubozuka), a Korean Japanese, has to tackle with discrimination and strive for success in a harsh society. The story, combining Sugihara's relationship with his parents, his friends and his girlfriend, is exceptionally rich. Climax keeps popping up again and again, that you will never find a break.

Although the subject is racial discrimination, the director does no intend to lecture us or analyze the topic in an academic approach. The film is instead turned into a highly comical and whimsical farce. Violence is not used to spill blood, it is rather a device to generate humor. The several fight scenes between Sugihara and his father are some of the most entertaining moments of the film that you don't want to miss.

In terms of the cinematic style, Isao Yuksada's approach is very energetic. Starting from the beginning, the opening credit has already given you a strong impression that this is not a quiet film. Everything seems to be chaotic and rolling, which is very refreshing. Yukisada's ingenious mind is also exhibited by all well conceived scenes throughout the film. Ideas like running on the railroad, chasing the motorbike, the duel of father and son are wonderful and unconventional. Similar to Battle Royale, what is good about it is that the director has the courage to depict scenes that are usually treated as taboo.

As a fairly new actor, Yosuke Kubozuka assured us that he is the perfect choice for the role in this film. Even though he was under "siege attack" by veteran actors Tsutomu Yamazaki and Shinobu Otake, he was still able to handle his character convincingly. It is no wonder why he was able to capture the best actor awards in many film festivals. His partner Kou Shibasaki has done a great job as well. Their relationship in the film is interesting. At first, they get in touch with each other because they both don't know the other's identity. The "unknown" is always more attractive than the "known". Later when they have discovered the identities, they are bewildered, finally they successfully break the barrier and get together. What is interesting is that this relationship parallels to the way you make friends with foreigners. At first, you do not know much about the foreigner's culture, when you get to know more, you may get confused by the difference between your cultures, and finally when you fully understand them, you will find out that there is actually no difference between you and them. No matter Japanese or Chinese or white, everyone is the same, we are all human being afterall!

If you are looking for a serious case study of racial issue from a film, Go may not be your choice. It does not have a very intact narrative structure, nor is the story organized and presented in a systematic and conventional way. Nevertheless, what is most valuable about this film is the optimistic attitude proposed by the filmmaker. No matter who you are or where you are from, there is always a way out if you are able to live optimistically.

DVD (HK version) - The DVD version does not contain too many special features.

Cool guy(s) - Yosuke Kubozuka, Kou Shibasaki, Tsutomu Yamazaki

Reviewed by: Kantorates