MOVIES | “Taboo,” the gay samurai movie


If you liked Brokeback Mountain, you will most certainly enjoy Taboo (Gohatto), or, as it is popularly known, “The Gay Samurai Movie.” Director Nagisa Oshima explores the brewing passions of the Samurai soldiers in a lush, beautiful film Set in a Samurai training school in the mid-19th century.

Taboo (Gohatto), a movie directed by Nagisa Oshima. Screening at the Walker Art Center on November 5 (7:30 p.m.) as part of the In the Realm of Oshima film series. Admission $8. For more information, see

The central character of the story is Sozaburo Kano, the deliciously handsome young samurai student who inspires lust from his fellow students and also his superiors. Aloof, yet quietly passionate, Kano refuses to cut his beautiful locks even when he is past the age when they are appropriate.

Kano is an enigma, and throughout the film we are unsure whether he acts as victim or perpetrator of the crimes that begin occurring due to his enrollment in the school. Born to a wealthy family, he lets his lovers beat him in duels, but quietly admits that the reason he joined the samurai was so that he could kill.

Despite the widespread homosexuality of the men in the samurai unit, the gay love is seen by even those who engage in it as destructive. In the end, it is more Kano’s beauty, rather than his sexual preference, that is the cause of so much turmoil. A face like his cannot exist in the company of soldiers, it is believed, without corrupting their very way of life.

The experience of watching this movie is mesmerizing, as Nagisa Oshima draws the viewers into the sepia tones of the samurais’ world and the luminous skin of Kano as he shines beauty on those around him.

Sheila Regan is a theater artist based in Minneapolis. When not performing or writing, she serves as educational coordinator for Teatro del Pueblo.

Also in the Daily Planet, read Sheila Regan on Nagisa Oshima’s Cruel Story of Youth.