Thursday, April 05, 2007

Go (Isao Yukisada, 2001)

Go (Isao Yukisada, 2001)
Rating: 8.5

Sugihara is a second generation North Korean living in Japan, otherwise referred to as a resident alien, or zainachi. His father encourages him to “see the world” and figure things out for himself. Sugihara takes his father up on this offer as he opts to transfer from North Korean School to a Japanese High School where he faces discrimination. In the opening scene of the film Sugihama is playing basketball with a group of peers who begin taunting him as he dribbles the ball. After a shot of Sugihama dribbling, it cuts to the group of Japanese kids each dribbling basketballs themselves while shouting “zainichi.” They begin throwing the balls at Sugihama in an almost surrealistic fashion resembling a stoning. Following this assault, Sugihama reacts with violent aggression by yelling and then drop kicking the other players. This scene establishes the protagonist’s struggle, other’s perception of him as “other,” and also his rebellious personality. Although Go explores the plight of the Korean resident Japanese, the film is not limited to national identity and inequality in Japan, but also implies a universal ideal of self identity, originality, and embrace of other cultures.
Sugihara’s father trades in his North Korean passport for a South Korean one in order to travel to Hawaii and later to Spain, attempting to teach his son that documentation and perceptions of others can’t establish your identity, rather it is individually established. Kato, a friend of Sugihara’s, becomes a somewhat subtle example when compared to others, of how the film promotes tolerance towards diversity. Kato’s sexuality is somewhat ambiguous. Aside from his demeanor, and costuming, there is a specific scene during Kato’s birthday party when he attempts to kiss Sugihara, but Sugihara blocks his own face to prevent it from happening with the pineapple he brings as a gift. The most interesting case in the film is Sugihara’s friend from North Korean school, Jong-Il. Although Jong-Il doesn’t deny his North Korean heritage, or become a “traitor to his race” as their teacher put it, he is perhaps the most uniquely open minded character in the film. Jong-Il supports Sugihara’s shift into Japanese culture and eventually his sister decides to attend. He is also interested in traditional comedy, Shakespeare, and other Western literature as he quotes Billy the Kid at one point and Malcolm X at another. ‘The Works of Shakespeare” book, Jong-Il gives to Sugihara, is one of the most significant symbols. The film actually begins with a quote from Romeo and Juliet, “"What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell so sweet?” This quote is reiterated throughout and is a salient theme. After the death of Jong-Il, we see a shot of Sugihara looking down at the book. The following shot shows, the passage circled as tears fall onto the page. Sugihara and his love interest, Sakurai only differ in name, (hers being so obviously Japanese and his Korean) but they look phenotypically similar, share common interests, and genuinely like each other; their names are irrelevant In the final scene Sugihara declares that he is neither Korean nor Japanese, “I am Me,” he says.

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