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BRIGHT FUTURE (AKARUI MIRAI) (director/writer: Kiyoshi Kurosawa; cinematographer: Takahide Shibanushi; editor: Kiyoshi Kurosawa; music: Pacific 231/The Black Horn; cast: Joe Odagiri (Yuji Nimura), Tadanobu Asano (Mamoru), Tatsuya Fuji (Shin-ichiro), Takashi Sasano (Mr. Fujiwara), Marumi Shiraishi (Mrs. Fujiwara); Runtime: 92; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Takashi Asai; Palm Pictures; 2003-Japan-in Japanese with English subtitles)
“Kurosawa’s weird look at the empty lives of modern youth is mysteriously eye-catching but nothing deeper.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

J-horror writer-director Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s (“Cure”/”Charisma”/”Seance”) ironically titled contemporary urban horror pic offers caustic social commentary on youthful idleness and plenty of weirdness. Kurosawa’s weird look at the empty lives of modern youth is mysteriously eye-catching but nothing deeper. If you want to see a tastier fish story, Rumble Fish has more bite. Bright Future is stylishly shot on DV.

Two troubled, aimless and discontented twentysomethings, Mamoru (Tadanobu Asano) and Yuji (Joe Ogadiri), are temping as stockboys in a hand-towel factory. The seemingly more together and placid one, Mamoru, keeps in his home fish tank a poisonous, luminous saltwater red jellyfish; while the somewhat retarded Yuji’s thing is to have pleasant dreams of a promising future, but recently has stopped dreaming. The sullen passive boys take a strong dislike to their intrusive, gabby and over friendly harmless 55-year-old boss, Fujiwara (Takashi Sasano), even after he offers them a full-time position and a bonus. After delivering an oversized wooden desk to the boss’s home, the boys are brought a sushi takeout to Mamoru’s modest apartment as thanks. When the boss puts his hand in the fish tank holding the lethal jellyfish, Mamoru deliberately fails to warn him of the danger. When Mr. Fujiwara later realizes that the jellyfish was poisonous, he confronts Mamoru. The lad abruptly quits his job and plans on leaving town, thereby leaving his prized jellyfish with Yuri. When Yuri angrily goes to the boss’s apartment to retrieve his music CD he lent him, he finds the boss and his wife (Marumi Shiraishi) and daughter dead. Mamoru confesses to the crime when the police visit his pad, and in jail tells the space cadet Yuri to forget about him when he’s told by the visitor that he loves him and is willing to wait for his release.

Following Mamoru’s execution, Yuri is befriended by his friend’s estranged guilt-ridden father (Tatsuya Fuji), a divorced man of modest means who makes a living as a recycler and repairer of discarded junk. He’s looking to give Yuri the attention he never gave his real son and treats him like a surrogate son, inviting him to live in his place and to work for him. Meanwhile Yuji’s becoming increasingly more psychotic without his friend to keep him calm and his anti-social plan is to find a way for the poisonous jellyfish to live in freshwater so they can find a way home through unfamiliar water (comparing his search for a home with the jellyfish’s search).

Kurosawa aims to show that the lethal solitary jellyfish that stings anything that gets too close is similar to the alienated youth, but that attempt at metaphor seems a far reach. Nevertheless this strange film has a raw power and flaky characters that serve it well.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”