Taboo is a Japanese Samurai film from 1999. It offers some nice pieces of action but more ‘drama’ than action – as it’s main theme seems to be homosexuality in the ranks of the Samurai.
This film surrounds a young, 18 year old Samurai named Kano. Kano is skilled and useful as a fighter, proving himself in class and during his first duty – to behead a traitor of the clan. But Kano also has an extremely effeminate look and nature about himself – and this attracts the attention of another man in his clan.
The two start to see each other at night and it becomes common knowledge that the two are lovers. But Kano keeps going, bedding other men within the clan and we see much jealously starting to form within the ranks.
After previous problems caused by this kind of activity within the ranks of the clan, the superiors try to turn Kano to women, and in general try their best to prevent the behavior from continuing. But tensions rise and things get complicated.
A story about things that go bump in the night…
It’s pretty crazy to watch, Kano is basically a man whore who beds (it seems) just about every guy in the clan, and we also learn how common it is in certain areas back in those days. In a time when we see sex crazed Japanese films about rape and female oppression, this film flips the coin and addresses homosexuality – only without the rape.
As far as character development goes, Kano seems pretty shut off and we explore more the reaction of those around him whilst learning very little about the man himself. It’s funny how after hours behavior affects the entire clan – although it’s mostly their attitude and reaction that causes it.
One man in particular does get a little homocidal however. Kano’s first lover just so happens to be insanely jealous of the other men he beds and even attempts to kill one – who isn’t even interested and was in fact trying to turn Kano onto women!
The Action & Martial Arts
This movie actually has a bit of decent sword work and action!
We see a few sparring matches as the men fight each other with bokkens in the dojo. Further more, one of the clan’s top men investigates the feelings of Kano and his first lover but studying some plans sparring matches between them and other men. Although they’re only sparring, the fights are nicely done showing off some traditional weapons work – but nothing adrenaline pumping.
We see some real fights as the film progresses but it’s quick and over with – but still done very well.
This movie however isn’t driven by the action and in no way should the action be a reason for watching it. Ultimately it’s a drama about how the homosexuality of a handful of men affect a Samurai clan and it’s superiors. Even while it’s not bad, it’s not that good either. Suit yourself but there are better movies out there to watch!
On DVD –
Region 1 (US & Canada)
Region 2 (UK, Europe, etc)
Gohatto [DVD]