Owen Gleiberman
August 04, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Another Japanese carnival of demons: Gozu, the new film from the prodigiously freaky and inspired Takashi Miike, who turns out his sick-joke head trips at the rate of approximately five a year is just now being released in American theaters.

It’s clear from ”Audition” (2001), his psychosexual shocker that plumbed the depths of feminine vengeance, that Takashi Miike is a major artist. His gifts are on display, but only intermittently, in ”Gozu,” the surreal tale of a yakuza functionary (Hideki Sone) who gets stranded in a town as nutty as the ones in U-Turn or Green Acres. There isn’t much that Miike won’t throw into his nightmare mix, yet the movie is almost prankish in its slack indulgence. Not until the last 20 minutes does ”Gozu” come fully alive. A man has sex with a seductive beauty, who then gives birth to…well, let’s just say it’s a sight that may take time to fight its way out of your head.

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