Buddies Mamoru (Asano Tadanobu) and Yuji (Odagiri Joe) are connected by broken dreams and Mamoru’s poisonous pet jellyfish. When Mr. Fujiwara (Takashi Sasano) fires Mamoru for not warning him about sticking his hand in the young man’s jellyfish tank, Mamoru subsequently kills the man and his family. From jail, Mamoru teaches Yugi how to help his jellyfish adapt to fresh water in what may or may not be an attack against Tokyo’s populace. After Mamoru kills himself, Yugi befriends his father Shin-ichiro (Fuji Tatsuya). Bright Future is nowhere near as terrifying as Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Cure, and as such may disappoint fans of the director’s work. Kurosawa is a great genre director, and his best films—from the psychedelic Charisma to the technological spooker Pulse—are largely concerned with the end of modern civilization. These philosophically inquisitive works envision a media-saturated Japan collapsing from the inside out. Bright Future is no exception, and it’s a fabulous mess (though, unfortunately, it’s more “mess” than “fabulous”). The problem with the film is that Kurosawa’s typically rigorous aesthetic feels contradictory and uncertain, though I suppose someone could make the argument that the aimless quality of the film matches the lives of its characters (half the time I didn’t know if I was watching a film by Kiyoshi Kurosawa or Jia Zhang-ke). Kurosawa strains to find a parallel between Mamoru’s jellyfish and his characters’ disaffections. The fish are beautiful to look at, but because the obsessive imagery seemingly demands to be anchored by a more sci-fi milieu, you almost wish the jellyfish had been cut and substituted with more scenes like the great tracking shot that closes the film.
The softness that plagues most DVD releases by Palm Pictures actually seems to work to Bright Future's advantage, if only because the film is pretty soft-looking to begin with. The film may not deserve the high marks I'm giving it in the image and sound department, but the shots and sounds of the film's jellyfish are mind-boggling enough to justify the mark-up.
Included here: A 75-minute (!) featurette titled "Ambivalent Future" that seamlessly combines a fascinating on-set interview with director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (who talks at lengths about his influences, including Robert Aldrich's Emperor of the North Pole) with behind-the-scenes footage from the film, a theatrical trailer, and previews for Dig! and Reconstruction.
Had Palm Pictures provided a downloadable screensaver of the film's jellyfish in action, this DVD would have been a keeper.