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Akarui mirai / Bright Future

Akarui mirai / Bright Future (2003)

SHINY JELLYFISH

Director: Kurosawa Kiyoshi
Writers: Kurosawa Kiyoshi
Date: 2003

Genre: Drama
Description: Jellyfish, acclimation, lost youths, things that don’t work, new liking the old, dreams, death, life, and metaphors. Oh, and twinkly things.

Cast: Odagiri Jô, Asano Tadanobu, Fuji Tatsuya

Crew of note:

Runtime: 115 mins.
Color: Color
Trivia:

summary
Yûji and Mamoru are friends who hang out and pretty much like to do nothing. When Mamoru goes through a series of troubles, he leaves his jellyfish, who they’ve been acclimatizing to fresh water, with Yûji. Alone, disconnected from society, and feeling that typical youthful disillusionment, Yûji tries to search for meaning in his life while taking care of crazy jellyfish.

review
Kurosawa Kiyoshi is best known for his psychological thriller/horror movies Pulse and Cure, but this movie can stand on its own against them. Plus, Jellyfish are certainly more interesting (and more common?) than psychos, monsters, or the paranormal. Also, they’re quite shiny and illuminated.

Although it seems like the jellyfish will be the stars of this movie, it turns out Odagiri’s character gets most of the screen time. I was surprised to find that this is more a film about… a dude. Just another normal dude. I suppose I was too excited about jellyfish.

Despite my initial disappointment, I was quickly convinced of the film’s quality. Perfect shooting style, with high contrast and spaced out whites, alluding to the title and giving the entire movie a dream like quality. Music was great too, a whimsical, dramatic, electronic score that does its best when it acts against the scenes. Still, halfway through, I was looking for jellyfish massacres at the beach, or possibly a giant mutated jellyfish zapping Tokyo with its tentacles. Kurosawa throws a curve ball and instead follows Yûji through his rather mundane and meandering life. Although the movie seems to be rather plotless, or rather, avoids the plot that would have made it more successful and accessible (jellyfish or hot chicks), Kurosawa creates a deceptively simple movie filled with complex metaphors of whatifs, youth, and life with dreams and broken things.

conclusion
Expecting something similar to Kurosawa’s other films, I was delightfully surprised. This one is slow, sparse, meditative, and explores disconnection, relationships, and an obsession with fixing things. Not quite the jellyfishdisaster movie I was hoping for, but certainly something of greater value.

things to take note of
Asano’s cool pants
The father-son relationship between a father and a son. Who aren’t related.
Oooooohhhh.. Shiny! Jellyfish!

best moment
Oh No! JELLYFISH!
On the roof

why you should watch this
Asano Tadanobu and Odagiri Jo are two of the most interesting actors of their generation
Jellyfish
Surprisingly touching film

rating: 8

scorecard
Plot: B
Cast: B
Cinematography: B+
Music: B+
Entertainment: B

similar movies, maybe:
Helpless, directed by Aoyama Shinji, also starring Asano
Tenten / Adrift in Tokyo, directed by Miki Satoshi, also starring Odagiri

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Nashan naren nagou / Postmen in the Mountains

Nashan naren nagou / Postmen in the Mountains (1999)

The dog is probably suing for not getting on the cover

Director: Huo Jianqi
Writers: Si Wu
Date: 1999

Genre: Drama
Description: Postmen in the mountains, passing on the family job, father-son relationship, real understanding, relationships with people, a smart dog

Cast: Ten Rujun, Liu Ye, Chen Hao

Crew of note: Music by Wang Xiaofeng, Cinematography by Zhao Lei

Runtime: 93 mins.
Color: Color
Trivia:

summary
The father is asked to retire by the local civil authorities in charge of the mail. It’s the only means of communication with the outside world for most of the towns and villages he visits, so he takes great pride and values his work immensely. Because of this, he can only trust his son to continue his work. The son accompanies his father on one last trip, before finally taking over his father’s life’s work.

review
Beautiful, simple, heartwarming; seemingly about nothing but the film has so much more to say than the conversations reveal. There is more to this life than meets the eye, and though the pictures are certainly beautiful, you must also prick up your ears and listen, and understand the two postmens’ expressions. This is an incredibly real movie, and in fact all of city life seems so fake and artificial compared to the lives of these characters. Punctuated by the subtle understated acting that focuses more on expressions–the welling eyes, the looks of understanding, etc–the Chinese countryside comes alive.

Well shot throughout save for some curious boomlift rising shots. Really really good music–haunting, truly Chinese, yet also modern and acts almost as a fourth voice (third = the dog’s) in many scenes. Basically, it’s another great movie about ordinary people.

conclusion
It’s obvious that I enjoy films about live I will most likely never experience. What makes these films about rural life so encapsulating, so enchanting, is the atmosphere, tension, emotion, that great films are able to exude. It almost seems enough to be mesmerized by the culture, by the landscapes, the architecture, by the sounds and textures of these strange lands. But Huo also shows its people, the quiet and deep father-son relationship of these two men in particular, whose lives are so drastically different from ours and whose culture is fast disappearing. At least I get to see them on film. I hope that places like these will persist in the face of modernization.

things to take note of
The different towns, their reception of the two men, and those that the two men interact with in each place
The everyday objects scattered around, in the most important scenes

best moment
Crossing the river
The scene on the bridge + drinking water
The paper airplane

why you should watch this
I almost cried watching this and I’m not ashamed to admit it
Liu Ye’s gotten pretty famous; this is one of his first, and one of his purest, roles

rating: 8.4

scorecard
Plot: B
Cast: A
Cinematography: B
Music: B+
Entertainment: B

similar movies, maybe:
Tuya de hun shi / Tuya’s Marriage
Mabei shang de fating / Courthouse on Horseback
Sanxia Haoren / Still Life

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