Go was the movie that first got me thinking about “scenes I go back to.” A few months ago, I found myself down in the basement with a sudden urge to just flip through the many solid scenes in this Japanese film (which is not to be confused with the 1999 American movie of the same name, which is enjoyable as well, but for completely different reasons).
Go boasts a solid performance from Yôsuke Kubozuka, one of Japan’s finest young actors, and deals with some heavy topics — racial identity, discrimination — in a manner that gets its point across without being preachy.
A lot of this is due to director Isao Yukisada, who infuses the film with enough offbeat style and verve to keep things hopping. But ultimately, it comes down to Kubozuka, who delivers a layered performance as a Japanese-born Korean who is as capable of enjoying Shakespeare as he is knocking the teeth out of the Japanese high schoolers who try to rough him up. He delves into some particularly gutwrenching territory, especially when he chooses to stand up to some Korean friends who want to avenge a fellow classmate’s murder.
There’s an inner torment that Kubozuka expresses so amazingly and touchingly, as he struggles to reconcile his Korean heritage and Japanese identity, his thirst for violence and his desire for a simple, private life. And when Kubozuka confronts his Korean friend, telling him he’d sell his own soul if it meant he could be at peace with such frightening intensity in his eyes — goosebumps, plain and simple.