Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Big Bang Love, Juvenile A

While it might seem like an odd thing to bring up when discussing the film of a completely different director, it seems like the appropriate moment to say I don't like Lars Von Trier. Perhaps it's simply because Big Bang Love, Juvenile A has managed to make me realize why exactly it is I don't like Von Trier. Simply put, I hate his almost fetishistic need for self-denial. From denying himself proper lighting and equipment with the Dogme 95 movement to denying himself full sets with Dogville, his entire aesthetic is punishing himself for some ill defined reason. This film puts that in sharp relief, because while it does use similar chalk outline sets on occasion, it's not because of a self denial, but because it can, and because it is not denying itself anything. Instead of a film of punishment, it's a chance to actively explore different methods of doing things.

The story goes that two convicted murderers, Ariyoshi (Ryuhei Matsuda) and Kazushi (Masonobu Ando) go into prison (which is between a space shuttle and an ancient ruin, oddly) and enter into an unlikely but intense relationship. However, Ariyoshi is seen strangling Kazushi, and the film explores why, or if Ariyoshi killed Kazushi. While that description may imply a typical crime narrative, that's not what you get here. Instead, the relationship and the characters are explored in a highly abstract environment, with the design being an outward expression of their emotional state rather than conforming to traditional prison rules.

One could easily accuse this film of being pretentious, and it is trying very hard to be an art film. Of course, being by insanely prolific Takashi Miike, one might also assume he just wanted to approach the material in a new way, and try something he never had before. Whatever one thinks, you can tell that the design of the picture is rooted in a sense of inventiveness and exploration. From a pure story perspective it's interesting, but it becomes rewatchable just because of the subtle clues hidden within the sets and design.

It's also beautifully shot, using light in ways to help define scenes and areas in a way that defines them and gives a striking image at the same time. The greens and purples of the interrogation room contrast with the yellows in the primary prison area, and in rare excursions to the real world there is a completely different shooting style to emphasize the disconnect of the prison world.

It's up to the average viewer if these visual flourishes and some of the odder elements actually add to the picture. It could come off as extremely pretentious, and if you're not prepared for it, a little alienating. That's fine, but if nothing else, it's an experiment, and denies itself nothing. It is a film which denies itself nothing to try to get its point across. That's why I love Takashi Miike, when one watches his films you get the sense of a director who recognizes that film can be whatever you want it to be. If Von Trier would realize that instead of using it as a means of self (and audience) punishment, maybe I'd like him too.

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