Virtual Screening Room: Bright Future

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2003 • dir Kiyoshi Kurosawa w/Tadanobu Asano, Jô Odagiri • 115 min

Kiyoshi Kurosawa, one of Japan’s most unique auteurs, builds a fascinatingly disorienting and quietly apocalyptic tale of alienated twenty-somethings in this haunting 2003 drama. This was Kurosawa’s first feature to be selected for Cannes and marked a departure from his previous J-horror masterpieces such as Pulse and Cure.

Enigmatic Mamoru (Asano) lives alone with his poisonous but hauntingly luminous jellyfish that stings anyone who gets too close. Mamoru’s intense antisocial behavior is echoed by his co-worker and sole friend, Yuji (Odagiri). They also share a dislike for their excessively solicitous boss, Fujiwara. However, and inexplicably, Mamoru takes matters to the extreme, murdering both Fujiwara and his wife. With Mamoru in prison awaiting execution, Yuji is entrusted with the care of the lethal jellyfish. He becomes attached to the strange creature while continuing with Mamoru’s previous efforts to acclimate the saltwater animal to thrive in freshwater. As the day for the creature’s transformation looms closer, Yuji befriends the doomed man’s father, Shin-ichiro, who bonds with Yuji and takes him under his wing. Just as Yuji’s life seems to be turning for the better, the jellyfish slips through his fingers into a nearby canal with surprising and frightening results.

“Bright Future casts its spell by drawing out the horror of everyday existence bit by bit, and then tossing in some otherworldly weirdness that makes the hair on the back of your neck try to run for cover.”
– Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

“An enchantingly cryptic, ethereally photographed slice of somber surrealism that should definitely appeal to fans of David Lynch and Luis Buñuel.”
Premiere Magazine

“Gradually establishes a sense of foreboding that is hard to shake, though it’s not without its darkly humorous moments.”
Seattle Times