Thursday, September 14, 2006

Jo Odagiri, Tadanobu Asano, Tatsuya Fuji

EIGA SAI: Contemporary Japanese Film Festival
Cinema 1, Shang Cineplex


The first film I watched at this year's Japanese Film Festival. The theme for the festival this year is contemporary films. Thank God, this is more 'tolerable' because 2005's film selection was an array of various Japanese gory horror movies. I am not a horror flick fan, never was nor would I ever be one.

The synopsis is rather simple. 2 young guys are friends and they work in a factory which manufactures those hand towels wrapped in a plastic which people use in Asian restaurants. They share a common bond which tend to border on some weird ideas. Yuji is the 'dreamer' who sees himself having a good future based solely on his dreams. The other one Mamoru is more action oriented. His pet is a red jellyfish which he is slowly acclimatizing to fresh water so it can eventually survive in Tokyo even if we all know they are sea water creatures.

Yet the film is fraught with metaphors and laden with a lot of symbolic overtones. The disillusioned and disenfranchised youth with nary a thought on securing themselves a bright future. The huge generation gap between the young adults and their parents. The 'haves' and the 'have-nots'. The dreamers and the realists. The Che Guevara T-shirts worn by the young guys. A second chance at parenting for one of the main characters. The 'stuck in a boring job' situation. Even the jellyfish managed to symbolize something for what it's worth. But these points are all undermined with a quiet subtlety that seems only present in Japanese movies.

It is up to the viewer whether he associates certain scenes with its hidden meaning or to simply shrug his shoulders then just block it out of your frame of mind. If you choose the latter then you are in for a boring, seemingly no concrete plot film. It has some beautifully shot angles of the jellyfish infestation in the canals of Tokyo. That might seem like the only 'good' thing going for it, visual cinematic wise. The director, Kiyoshi Kurosawa (not related at all to Akira) filmed some scenes using a hand held camera. So the texture of the film appear grainy and blurry. A bit amateurish in quality but it never betrays the fact that Kurosawa tried to make a point about the wasted potential of Japan's youth. He is mostly credited for those really gory/scary movies that Japanese cinema churns out like a franchise. He is the director of "Cure" "Charisma" and the film "Pulse" which just got remade (maybe bastarized) into a Hollywood horror film starring that "Veronica Mars" chick (I don't know her name). So for him to attempt to make "Bright Future" into this existential movie with spaced out characters trying to find meaning in their lives might be a rather bold gesture.

Frankly, I was grasping most of the time trying to connect the dots, so to speak. I tried to see this film as some glimpse into the restless mind of the Japanese youth in today's society. But while you sit there reading the subtitles, trying to figure the rationale behind the characters actions, you simply won't get it, right away. It is only after the film ends when you really analyze it (if you allow yourself that privilege) as you run some scenes in your mind that you sort of understand it in some surreal sense. How else would I now see a venomous red jellyfish as a powerful symbol of a bright future for the restless youth of the world in these troubled times? Or as some weapon of mass destruction trying to wreak havoc on society so that it can finally act and break free from its limitations and barriers? Actually there are many possible explanations for the mere presence of a jellyfish in this movie. So maybe just maybe this film did make an impact on me after all.

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