“Akarui mirai” (Bright Future, 2003) written and directed by Kurosawa Kiyoshi (no relation to Kurosawa Akira) is a dark film (not, however, a noir) that is mostly opaque to me, even with phosphorescent red jellyfish playing a significant part in the film.
Twenty-something roommates Mamoru (Asano Tadanobu [Gohatto] ) and Yuji (Joe Odagiri, [Azumi]) work together in a small (hot towel) factory. They seem too apathetic even to be slackers. They do what they are told, including moving a desk for the boss’s daughter (and then moving it back and forth and back around the girl’s room at her mother’s direction — the daughter is as apathetic as the workers).
Mamoru is raising a luminous, highly toxic-to-touch red jellyfish (Dactylometra pacifica), slowly replacing salt water in its tank with fresh water.
Plot spoiler alert
After their boss (Sasano Takashi) comes over and turns on their television to watch sports and borrows a CD from the “boys,” Mamoru returns the visit and kills the whole family. Yuiji discovers the bodies when paying a visit of his own.
The father from whom Mamoru is estranged, Shinichiro (Tatsuya Fuji), comes to town (Tokyo), engages in polite non-communicative jail visits, and more or less adopts Yuiji. Mamoru is eager to be executed for his multiple homicides, but concerned about his jellyfish. Shinichiro becomes fascinated by the jellyfish (is it a hereditary trait?).
In the canal system, the single jellyfish proliferates at a sci-fi rate, so that a whole canal glows in the dark with these jellyfish. They survive in the fresh — well not salty, though polluted — water, but head downstream to the sea. Shinichiro cannot accept this, even though Yuji tells him they will return to reproduce.
There is also a gang of young males in identical dress (black pants, sneakers, baseball caps and sweat shirts with white t-shirts with the image of Che Guevera on them) with flashing band atop their baseball caps, like the jellyfish. They rob the place where Mamoru goes to work as a janitor. They are apprehended, though he is not. But they do not go to prison like Mamoru, since they are hanging out for the last two scenes of the movie.
End plot spoiler alert
I don’t know what — if anything — it is supposed to mean. The youth of Japan are more aimless than jellyfish, perhaps? I have to say that the jellyfish looks (and then look) marvelous. Yuiji’s clothes are very picturesquely torn (and Mamoru’s bizzarely patterned).
Shinichiro warns Yuiji that he will either end of in prison or disappear into his dreams, though Shinichiro seems to me to have even less firm a grasp of basic realities than Yuiji. And the movie does not provide any insight into the sources of Mamoru’s nihilism. It just is. If Kurosawa has an opinion on whether the jellyfish or Mamoru are the “bright future,” I missed the clues.
The grainy digital images from a hand-held camera (or cameras) are sometimes arresting, and generally underlit. Not being familiar with this Kurosawa’s oeuvre, my guess is that he is like David Lynch in not knowing where to go with images that intrigue him (that is, lacking in talent for plotting, wanting to make thrillers nonetheless, and having some talent for showing odd characters and striking visuals).
There is supposed to be a 75-minute “making of” documentary feature, “Ambivalent Future” on the disc, but it would not play on the copy I had. No doubt, I’d have a much better idea of Kurosawa’s intent with its aid (but a film should not require that kind of aid should it?) For alienated Japanese youth on screen, I much prefer Tokyo Eyes and The Rainbow Kids — which are black comedies not just an extended look at alienated youth.
©2016, Stephen O. Murray