Takashi Miike brings us a murder mystery whodunit framed in a gay prison love story. Sounds fun, I know. But before you go racing off to catch this flick at your nearest film festival, just know that it’s one of the filmmaker’s more mellow efforts. Watching many of his films is like witnessing a particularly violent sex act. This film, however, is like taking a nice meditative stroll through an art exhibit. Both are rewarding experiences, but knowing a little bit about what you’re getting into beforehand can definitely be of great benefit. And that’s why you should be reading this review.
Told in extreme non-linear fashion, I can say that the movie kinda begins with two young men being admitted into prison, both for unrelated murders. Jun is a quiet, femmey kinda guy while Shiro is a tattooed badass. Not long after pummeling everyone in his path, Shiro is found dead, strangled to death, with Jun on top of him. Pried from the dead body, Jun screams that he’s the one who’s done it, but prison authorities aren’t buying it. Thus begins the aforementioned whodunit that rockets us back and forth in time as we investigate the various suspects in the case, including a deliciously creepy warden with an ever-present Chester the Child Molester grin across his face. This investigation also takes us back in time so that we witness the crimes Jun and Shiro committed and the bond the two form with each other once in prison.
Try as you may to stay focused, you will more than likely get at least a little lost somewhere during this film. And that’s fine. “Big Bang Love, Juvenile A” is more of an art installation rather than a story being told. Confusing at times, sure, but it’s a gorgeous sight for certain. The prison setting is a minimal one, made up of dimly lit wide open spaces, often emulating a darkened stage. David Lynch comes to mind in describing this imagery. Stepping outside the confines of the facility, we find that the prison is located on a sort of desolate Mars setting, complete with pyramid and rocketship just hanging out. Surreal touches like this and many more drum up memories of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s work.
Dark, quiet, beautiful and gratefully short. I think the saving grace of this film is its merciful short running time of 85 minutes. It’s a perfect length for this subject matter, especially considering how its presented to us. Miike completists will delight in that their hero has once again offered up something completely different, but the casual Miike viewer would do better by checking out one of his many other movies.