Oh, cherry blossom. If you believe a certain kind of Japanese movie (and trust me, Gohatto is one of that certain kind of Japanese movie) then cherry blossom is in bloom for about 90% of the year. Considering how much said cherry blossom is also expected to fall it really raises a difficult question for the ongoing survival of the cherry tree.

The cherry blossom is one of about five hundred metaphors for sex in Gohatto, the cleanest dirty film ever. Considering that the director Nagisa Oshima made In The Realm Of The Senses one of the more pornographic art* films ever made this is not due to prudery. Perhaps it signals an attempt at further sophistication, layering on metaphor after metaphor until we get the message. And we get the message – homosexuality is taboo in feudal Japan. But we knew that anyway; instead the constant drift to increasingly obscure sexual analogies distracts from any serious point being made. When a oozing bloody head stump can be read as semen-like, the erotic undertow is is getting ridiculous.

Gohatto is all about sex and rebellion. And at the same time not about it at all. Just as the sex is sublimated in many meaningless metaphors, so are the politics of rebellion. There are plenty of schemes and whispered words in back corridors which lead to nothing. Intrigue needs to be intriguing. But there is some nice acting and it looks gorgeous, which is enough for some. Gohatto is arthouse at its most instantly beguilling, all surface no depth. I just think pornography is more honest.

* Attractive people having sex in tasteful situations shown in cinemas with proper doorways on respectable streets.