Dir: Takeshi Miike. Jap. 2006. 84mins.

The softening of Takeshi Miike- after the loopily tender Zebraman, and Box, his operatically stylised contributionto the Three Extremes anthology- continuesapace with this bizarre gay prison yarn.

With shades of Gohatto (Taboo) and early German expressionistcinema, Big Bang Love, Juvenile A beginsintriguingly as a sort of cosmic, poetic enquiry into male friendship andbonding. But then, abruptly, it becomes a murder mystery.

Visually striking butultimately confusing, this is one of those films that is fine as long as you'recontent just to soak up the atmosphere. Those turned onto the director by Ichi The Killerwill be disappointed; after some more festival exposure - it played as a PanoramaSpecial in Berlin - Big Bang Lovewill likely be confined to the extreme arthouse edgein Miike-receptive territories, plus the usualspecialist DVD outlets.
Pretty boy Ryuhei Matsuda - who, tellingly, made hisacting debut in Gohatto- plays Jun Ariyoshi, a waiter in a gay bar who commitsa horrific murder one night for no apparent reason. He is committed to prisonon the same day as tattooed hard man Shiro Kazuki (Masanobu Ando), who is also on a murder rap, andthe two develop a mutual dependency that never quite develops into a sexualrelationship - though there is clearly plenty of same-sex action in thislock-up. Prison, Miike-style, is a homo-erotic netherworldpeopled by male model inmates in designer rags.

Gradually, it becomes clearthat this is a future world. At first only the curious stellar geometry of theprison cells and the stylised backdrops hint at this, but we move into full-on Metropolis mode when Jun looks through apeephole in his cell wall and sees a ruined zigurratand a Sputnik-era rocket, served up in CGI retro sauce that serve as potentsymbols of something or other. This is the problem with Big Bang Love: it so damn suggestive that it puts the audience onthe back foot, reluctant to be the little boy in the Emperor's New Clothes.

The colour palette isstunning, dominated by noirish blues and deep sunsetreds and golds, while Matsuda and Ando look great.

But this is not enough tosave the film from feeling over-burdened when it starts to develop its existentialmurder-within-prison-walls plotline, complete with captioned whodunit questionsthat sound like something out of a game of Cluedo. Bythe end, this viewer at least was baffled. Miike isclearly a twisted genius; he just needs to work on his communication skills.

Production companies
Excellent Film Co
Maki Production Co
Shochiku Co
Eisei Gekijo

International sales
Shochiku Co

Takeshi Watanabe
Shiro Sasaki

Masa Nakamura, from the novel A Erejiby Masaki Ato

Masahito Kaneko

Yasushi Shimamura

Production design
Takashi Sasaki

Main cast
Ryuhei Matsuda
Masanobu Ando