Bright Future Screenshot

The Scorn Watch

Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa is known for his horror films but this was unlike any horror film I’d seen. In the interests of full disclosure I should mention that I’ve seen very few horror films and it’s a genre I actively dislike! This one did have moments that were creepy/eerie, though not in the traditional horror genre sense.

The film begins innocuously enough, depicting the everyday life and friendship of Mamoru (Tadanobu Asano) and Yuji (Joe Ogadiri). They seem to spend all their time together with Mamoru almost uncannily simpatico with the restless Yuji. Mamoru is a genial, calm, Yoda-like presence keeping in check the shiftless, seemingly out-of-control Yuji. Their moments of camaraderie seem only to be interrupted by the presence of their intrusive boss who pops up uninvited at odd times and is clearly an unwelcome and annoying presence for both friends. All of this is captured with the languor, ease, and attention to detail that seems a natural skill for so many reputed Japanese directors. Also introduced as an important character in the story, is a poisonous, colorful red jellyfish which is Mamoru’s pet. We learn of the signs that Mamoru develops for Yuji which suggest “Wait” and “Go” ; both commands he uses frequently to keep the tantrums of Yuji in check.

With the basic elements in place, the preternatural calm is broken with a swift series of events – the murder of the boss, Mamoru’s confession and his imprisonment. The rest of the story is about how Mamoru’s father and Yuji cope in his absence. The narrative is interesting, if impenetrable. I don’t understand what the motivation of the two principal characters is. Why do they feel so disenfranchised and how does lashing out at society in a creepy manner provide an outlet? The film ends following down a Tokyo street a group of young guys that Yuji hangs out with during a brief misadventure. To the very end I failed to understand what their role is, why that misadventure is important or what the significance of the last shot is. Perhaps, it’s symbolic of life’s larger malaise or perhaps the clues are all there but are much too subtle for me to interpret! Yugi starts off the movie saying he can often see what lies ahead and that many of his dreams are of a bright future. What those dreams are and why so often his dreams are plunged in darkness is something I couldn’t decode. At any rate as the film ended I was left puzzled about what it was trying to depict and not at all sure what to make of the experience.

The film relies on some nifty camera work – shaking, fuzzy, using the darkness at times – to convey the sense of eeriness that pervades this film. Although I struggled to understand what the film was trying to convey, it kept me engaged. I persevered in trying to understand the protagonists, even though I didn’t particularly feel for them.

Scorn-Card: B 


Blue Steel (1989)

Blue Steel Screenshot

The Pan Scape

Seriously, worth the price of entry for the incredible hotness that is Jamie Lee Curtis in cop clothes. I love the opening shot of a rookie cop putting on her uniform and gathering up her tools. Both the character and the camera seem to be seduced by the gun and the way the camera gazes at the gun is fetishistic (bullets entering the chamber and what not!!). Turns out gun fetishes play a key role in the entire film.

I also really loved the initial shots of Curtis walking down the street on her first day strutting her stuff and that it’s women checking out her, as opposed to the standard male gaze. Plus, it’s done in a real fun way. Just one instance of the many ways the film subverts the gender stereotypes we are used without being heavy-handed about it.

On paper, the film has a little bit of the made-for-TV movie feel about it. A female cop who becomes the object of obsession for a crazy serial-killer. Much blood and stalking and seduction ensues ending in a final terrifying shootout.

And all of this is pretty much how things turn out. But here again, like in Near Dark, the plot just feels like a vehicle to convey so many other, much more interesting ideas. Even without thinking too much about the subtext, I picked up on the gender politics, the transactional nature of sex / seduction, the juxtaposition of the buddy cop relationship with the female friendship between Megan and Shirley and so on.

There’s also lots of interesting stuff in Megan’s characterization and her own attitude towards power. Right off the bat, she has little credibility in the police department and it’s not because of her gender. Her issues with her Dad and the other males who she sees as curtailing her (superior officers and so on) drive her to make some rather questionable decisions. When the serial-killer character talks about how they are both the same in that they can both pull that trigger without flinching, he is tapping into some very real fears. And this becomes even more interesting given that at least based on these two films, Bigelow herself seems so drawn to guns and explosions.

There’s a lot of suspension of disbelief required to buy into the film. The Eugene character swings too far between two extremes from his smooth veneer when he is out on dates with Megan to the raving lunatic at home on his exercise machine. Some of the police procedural stuff seems rather sketchy as well. The ending is just plain absurd and illogical.

But surprisingly, all of that bothered me less than it probably should. I can’t dismiss the fact that once again, I loved the world the film inhabits. The scenes with all the gunshots and the bullet penetrating the flesh and so on are all exhilarating to watch (albeit in a slightly unsettling sort of way). The film has some really funny and charming scenes (Megan scaring off a guy her friend introduces her to) and is full of ideas that stuck with me well after I had left the screening. Recommended as long as you can live with the narrative holes.

Pan-Card: B-