Friday, February 1, 2008

Big Bang Love

I first saw this film (also known as Juvenile A or 4.6 Billion Years of Love) with my friend Emily when we went together to the New York Asian Film Festival. Director Takashi Miike describes this film as his masterpiece, but while I do like it overall, I think he’s kind of reaching with that. To be honest, it was both my friend’s and my least favorite of the three films we saw that day (the others being Exte, which was my friend’s favorite, and I’m a Cyborg But That’s OK, which was mine). Still, in its defense it was up against some pretty stiff competition there.

The film is a somewhat murky murder mystery set in a prison. One of the convicts has been seemingly murdered by his lover, who is found leaning over the body with his hands around the corpse’s throat screaming “I killed him!” before we’re sent back to when they both first arrived there, so we can all see both how they arrived at that point and how the murder itself isn’t nearly as cut and dried as it would seem. The film is visually amazing to look at, and I will say is one of Miike’s best in that regard, which to those familiar with his better works is some pretty high praise. The plot itself is left deliberately confused, continually looping back in on itself and repeating scenes to throw us off, and just so that we don’t all forget who is making this film, it opens with a fiery interpretive dance and is set inside of a prison that borders both a giant space rocket and a pyramid.

Despite the great visual feel, the movie doesn’t quite manage to bring everything together, and a good chunk of the film is simply too slow-paced for the material. It’s certainly not one of his weaker efforts, but I have difficulty viewing it as one of his best when his career includes classics like Ichi the Killer, Dead or Alive, and The Happiness of the Katakuris. This is a good effort, and a worthy addition to your collection if you’re a Miike fan or just someone curious about modern Japanese cinema (or, hell, if you just want a men-in-prison film to counterbalance all the women-in-prison movies you’ve got in your collection), but don’t go in thinking it’s the masterpiece its been hyped up to be.

Rating: ***

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