Big Bang Love, Juvenile A (Takashi Miike, 2006)
Japanese Title: 46-okunen no koi
Takashi Miike has more than seventy films under his name. While most of these films are trashy fare, more commonly available in the cheap bins of Japan's DVD stores, others have crossed over to the international festival circuit. Despite his growing fanbase outside Japan, there is still little validation to the aging and prolific director. Films like the Dead or Alive Trilogy (1999, 2000 & 2002), Ichi the Killer (2001), Visitor Q (2001), and Gozu (2003) have given him god status to the quasi-pornographers of America (Eli Roth gave Miike a cameo in his Hostel (2005)), and his venture to J-Horror (the relatively interesting but very popular One Missed Call (2003)) has turned him into master of the genre (enough to give Imprint (2006) the season-ending pimp spot of the first season of the Masters of Horror television series).
Big Bang Love, Juvenile A, Miike's latest film to receive international attention, is caviar compared to his other more famous works, which are mostly delicacies of different yet plebian sorts. It's essentially a murder mystery involving inmates in what seems to be a prison by way of Lars Von Trier's Dogville (2003) and Manderlay (2005)'s chalk-drawn settings. That's the basic structure but Miike pumps the air with vibrant colors and an unhealthy dose of male pheromones; turning the prison into a literal stage for bloody brawls and homoerotic tension.
The intro has a man (Kenichi Endo) reciting from a book about light years, Earth thousands of years ago and youth, on cue of an onscreen clapper board; the camera placed still outside a room lit and colored with Chris Doyle-lusciousness (by Masahito Kaneko) with the man sitting with a stick of lighted cigarette in his hand.
The victim in Miike's murder mystery is Kazuki (Masanobu Ando), supposedly strangled to death by effeminate Ariyoshi (Ryuhei Matsuda). The two enter the penitentiary together. Their respective fates are entangled by their individual misfortunes, as both are murderers of not so identical motives (Ariyoshi was allegedly raped by his middle-aged gay patron, while Kazuki was brought up to cherish violence by an environment that is not proper in common standards). The investigation accumulates much more than the simple procedural rules of motives and reasons; but instead delivers a backdrop of something deeper; more spiritual and philosophical than mundane.
The literal translation of the Japanese title is "4.6 Billion Years of Love," alluding to the time when everything was space dust that resulted from that primordial explosion in outer space. Miike time travels to that fictional future with his prisoner boys gazing lustfully with each other, while talking about space ships and Mayan pyramids that promise of space travel and heaven, respectively.
With all the billion years of slow creation, the result is their fated attraction, made questionable by their similar sex organs, under the not-so-perfect circumstance of jealous inmates and sadistic guards. Then there's their unattractive pasts --- literal ghosts guarding their every movement. These men are literally having their hearts bleed with this cosmological mistake; the rays of a bright future literally pass through their bodies as if they weren't part of the cumulative space dust that will inevitably meet and turn into matter. And matter turns back into space dust when applied with the potent formula of death; as we see a prisoner (animated) trying to escape burst into dust as he gets electrocuted by the high-voltage wire walls.
Cryptic, overly stylistic and ambitious yet, everything makes perfect sense. Miike was able to connect the metaphysics of the cosmos and the quiet yearnings of his two male characters. With Big Bang Love, Juvenile A, Miike may have made his first true art film, and I'm liking it.