Combustible Celluloid
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With: Tadanobu Asano, Joe Odagiri, Tatsuya Fuji
Written by: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Directed by: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: Japanese with English subtitles
Running Time: 93
Date: 01/18/2003

Bright Future (2003)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Jellyfish Story

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Japanese cult director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Cure, Doppelganger) strays from the horror genre for this new picture, but the results could hardly be called a sellout. He's just as cryptic as ever in the haunting, beautiful Bright Future. Two friends, Mamoru (Tadanobu Asano) and Yuji (Joe Odagiri), work in the same dead-end job, and they've just been offered full-time positions. During their off hours, Mamoru is obsessed with acclimating a pet jellyfish to fresh water, but one night he suddenly decides to kill his boss and his boss's family. In jail, he hands over the jellyfish project to Yuji, who in turn befriends Mamoru's father (Tatsuya Fuji). Kurosawa -- no relation to Akira -- is one of the best directors out there at withholding information in dramatically interesting ways; he sucks almost all traditional personality from his characters, leaving only the most poignant and potent core ideas. For no apparent reason, Mamoru develops a hand signal for Yuji to follow, a finger out for "go" and a finger in for "wait." But later, this signal makes a huge dramatic splash. Likewise, the jellyfish imagery emerges as astonishingly gorgeous, but these glowing creatures also serve as a deadly reminder of mortality. The jellyfish are Kurosawa's only stab at stylishness in Bright Future; at all other times, he stays within his usual long takes and static compositions. Though there's nothing particularly scary in it, Bright Future still has the effect of taking one's breath away.

Palm Pictures' DVD release comes with an excellent feature-length making-of documentary, Ambivalent Future, that features lots of on-set footage. It also includes the theatrical trailer.

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