written and directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
by Walter Chaw Like many of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's pictures, Bright Future is about the virulence of apathy, the way that malaise seeps into the cracks of character, infecting ambition into inaction or inspiring sudden, malevolent acts inspired not so much by violence, but by a lack of prevention of violence. The Yin to Takashi Miike's Yang, Kurosawa increasingly finds himself at the fringe of narrative, making this film a remarkable companion piece to Gus Van Sant's similarly haunted, lyrical, and allegorical Elephant. Yuji (Joh Odagiri) is a shiftless youth working in a towel factory; his friend Mamaro (Tadanobu Asano) functions like Masato Hagiwara's drifter in Kurosawa's amazing Cure, an enigmatic catalyst for an almost existential refusal first to act, then to take responsibility for any action, no matter its significance. Kurosawa's worlds are contaminated with Bartleby's--sick with them, the way that Yuji and Mamaro eventually manage to infect Japan's waterways with a meticulously engineered freshwater jellyfish, an entity as malignant in its feckless, mindless drift as Kurosawa's disaffected, isolated antiheroes. The bright future of the title isn't ironic in a traditional sense because it's genuinely hopeful in the way of the New Testament's Revelations, understanding that for Yuji and Mamaro the completion of the quest is predictably apocalyptic and, like Camus's Sisyphus, finding joy in the reassuring inevitability of a never-deviating eternity. A closing shot of a canal packed with diaphanous death touches on the Christian (and T.S. Eliot-ian) image of Christ the river, divider and unifier (note the split-screen device that frames Yuji's conversations with his father)--understanding that the return of that particular catalyst is also certain death for a mythology that, like post-modernism, proselytizes salvation of sorts in the life of a sheep.