Big Bang Love: Juvenile A

Big Bang Love: Juvenile A

***1/2

Reviewed by: Paul Griffiths

Anyone who's familiar with just a few of Takashi Miike's films will have an idea of what kind of field they're venturing into here. From Shinjuku Triad Society to Ichi the Killer to The Happiness of the Katakuris, Miike has ploughed very individual, stylish furrows that have always been intriguing to follow. With Big Bang Love, Juvenile A his tractor is definitely in that field's quirkier corner.

Jun (Ryuhei Matsuda) is a shy, effeminate and vulnerable young man. Shiro (Masanobu Ando) is supremely confident, brutal and masculine. When we're first introduced to these polar opposites we find one murdering the other and from this unspools an eclectic, chronologically challenged and visually stylised murder mystery.

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Through the two investigating police detectives we discover that Jun and Shiro are both in prison serving convictions for brutal murders out in the real world. Real world? Nothing outside or inside this clink bears an immediate resemblance to the everyday; rather, there are strong expressions of imagination. From the sallow, yellowed prison cells to the apocalyptic landscape beyond, Miike has created a remarkably realised adaptation of Masaki Ato's manga Elegy For Boy that plays heavily with its frames and visual verse. Although totally different in look to Rodriguez's Sin City (and in almost every other way), the film just as powerfully invokes the graphic novel guise.

Into this milieu Miike then stirs a medley as he magpies style and theme aplenty. Technology and faith, modernity and culture figure into the mystery along with artful dance, Dogville antics, anime and a lot of homoeroticism, developing a touching and sensual relationship between the leads. Miike seems supremely confident in his varied handling and his ability to keep things consistently off-kilter. Those who enjoy his more extreme work will be satisfied, although in a more intellectual rather than Audition-squirming way. At his arthouse peak he even skews the literal and cinematic narrative to place us into the investigator role in more ways than one.

At times it can all feel a bit too busy, or confusing, but Ando's and Matsuda's committed performances help to keep accusations of flair without substance at bay. Overall it's an undeniably clever cult piece that certainly earns its stripes in Miike's idiosyncratic canon. It's entertaining and challenging, but, even though it makes you work for it, by the end you're left with the feeling that it's actually not half as complicated as it might have seemed to be.

Reviewed on: 15 Nov 2006
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Big Bang Love: Juvenile A packshot
Boy meets boy in a surreal prison for convicted murderers.

Director: Takashi Miike

Writer: Masa Nakamura, based on the novel by Ikki Kajiwara and Hisao Maki.

Starring: Ryuhei Matsuda, Masanobu Ando, Shunsuke Kubozuka, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Jo Kanamori, Kenichi Endo, Renji Ishibashi

Year: 2006

Runtime: 85 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Japan

Festivals:

London 2006

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