You hear "Takashi Miike made a gay prison love story" and you think… well, we’re not sure what you think, but we imagine it’s probably blood splattered, sexually incomprehensible, and includes someone cackling maniacally in the background. Of course, the only thing you can really generalize about Miike’s films is that he sure makes a lot of them; "Big Bang Love: Juvenile A" (more literally translated as "4.6 Billion Years of Love") comes on the tail of "violence across the ages" epic "Izo," an episode of "Ultraman Max" and fabulous, traumatic children’s film "The Great Yokai War," which screened at last year’s NYAFF. "Big Bang Love" is, unlikely enough, a pensive, symbolism-laden art film that regards its delinquent protagonist pair with rueful tenderness and bemused sorrow.
Shiro (Masanobu Ando) is, at the film’s outset, dead — strangled — and Jun (Ryuhei Matsuda), who was found with him, immediately confesses to the crime. From there the film stutters back to when the two arrived at the prison, blood-splattered from the respective murders they’ve each committed and eyeing each other as they’re stripped and processed. Shiro is all rage and violence, while Jun is remote and affectless, and Shiro falls into protecting Jun from the other inmates. It’s no "Oz"-style relationship, though, and it’s not, despite the heated pans down Shiro’s tattooed form, physical; the two have an immediate and unspoken understanding of each other expressed through the sweetly vulnerable conversations they have in their few moments alone. The world of "Big Bang Love" is otherwise cold and methodical, from the sparse, abstract sets that recall Lars von Trier to the circling investigation into Shiro’s death that shapes the film.
Looming outside the prison are a rocket ship and an ancient pyramid. One is a way to space and the other supposedly leads to heaven, we’re told — they’re the most overt instances of the film’s reoccuring application of astral imagery to emotion. It’s as if in "Big Bang Love"’s desolate setting science is the inadequate sole language available to describe human connection, and the damaged young men experiencing such things are as foreign and incomprehensible as alien beings.
"Big Bang Love: Juvenile A" will screen at the IFC Center June 28 at 7:00pm and July 5 at 6:45pm. It has no US distribution.