Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Big Bang Love, Juvenile A (Takashi Miike, 2006) **Minor Spoilers**

Miike's Off-Broadway play: "You see, the crates represent prison seats..."

Miike goes on to show that he might as well be working in theater with his precise use of lighting, staging, and mise en scene to create his aesthetic effect. BBLJA is a densely metaphoric work, generally saying something about alienated male youths coming of age (and existence) in an ageless, unloving environment, and it does it well at first, with its cryptic tale and abstract design. Unfortunately, by the end, it fails to go anywhere, and, while artistic and ambitious, ends up not as persuasive as it should be.

When the investigation begins on the film's central, slowly-revealed crime, the screenplay becomes relatively - and disappointingly - straight-forward, and its approach to its array of characters suddenly becomes somewhat reductive and flippant - although a certain sense of flippancy is a penchant of Miike's and perhaps a badge of his uncompromised sensibilities. Nevertheless, we want to learn more about both main characters' psyches, but with one's death, the film takes on the need to look backward, which halts the rooting of new thematic ground and instead gives us half-baked exposition, such as the revelation of the character Shiro's connection to the warden (played by Audition's Ryo Ishibashi).

The intrusion of the symbolic landmarks of the spaceship and pyramid are incredibly evocative, their first appearances especially expressionistic in how they literally intrude upon the enclosed space of the prison. The incongruity between these two symbols of faith in a "heaven" - heaven not being dichotomized between these two very loaded symbolic identifications (a spaceship [scientific] vs. a pyramid [religious]) - reflects the promotion of liberal, open-minded emotional understandings between the most disparate sensibilities which the film seems to be making.

The late scenes of the two men venturing outside to observe the spaceship and pyramid were hopeful signs of the film reaching some emotional conclusion, but the film instead seems to degrade into a mere collection of cinematic puns on a burgeoning but repressed potential homosexual relationship, a relationship whose textures should have struck me as fully delineated by the film's conclusions, but instead seem relegated to the background of the film's various subplots and convolutions.

The film is a unique and striking film, though, and probably deserves multiple viewings to fully understand and appreciate.

'Big Bang Love, Juvenile A' - 6.5/10

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